Greenhouse full of chard, so bake a pie

Last years chard plants seem to enjoy the greenhouse, each plant is producing huge leaves.

And there was a packet of way past sell-by filo pastry in the freezer, plus lots of last years broad beans. So a quick trip to the Co-op for feta and build a pie, six buttered filo sheets in a laminate, cook and de-skin the beans, cook and squeeze dry the chopped chard and assemble the mixed filling on half of the filo, fold over the other half and press the edges. Bake for a while (about 20 mins at Gas 6), and here it is:

A third each for dinner, this third will be our lunch later.
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Building a new Bear

Many years ago the city of Berlin launched a bid for the Summer 2000 Olympic games. As part of the promotional materials they designed and distributed a glorious yellow t-shirt with teddy bear features on it. I am a fan of teddy bears and so obtained one, and wore it to rags.

Recently I discovered the front of that t-shirt (above). I had put it aside with the intention of getting another made. Two days ago I used a black permanent marker pen to draw eye, and acrylic Paynes Grey (no black) for the nose and mouth design and drew one out on a clear part of the t-shirt. later I washed it thoroughly and dried it. The experiment was good, so now I need a new plain deep yellow large t-shirt – and then the bear will be back!

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Reinforcing the seafront

On a sunny day back in November I went to the seafront and was attracted to the noise of a big green machine surmounted by a giant drill. I took the picture below whilst I watched. After a while the sound and fury began to pall and I headed to the shingle for some hard walking exercise. On my return I saw one of the drill operators and asked him about the task.

He said it was an ongoing programme, they do a bit each year, and it involves drilling and inserting hollow steel bars at 90cm intervals 1.3m into the existing face. Once placed, a liquid cement grout is pumped into the hollow bar until it flows out around the bar, thus ensuring it is fixed in place.

The bars are then cut to a suitable length (9 or 10 cm) and temporary wooden shuttering fixed in front of the old wall so that 11cm of new concrete can be poured in, giving another 100 years of secure wall. He was an enthusiast for the work and I’m glad I met him.

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A Bit more Binding

Every time I look at the bookshelves I find more books needing some TLC. Decided to read the Sussex bits in Daniel Defoe’s ‘A Complete Tour of the . . . ‘, only to find the glue holding the penguin paperback together had turned to a gritty dust, cracking out loose pages every time I turned the page. Decided on a compromise re-bind, relying mainly on new glue, but inserting some hemp twine into grooves cut across the spine to improve the glue area, and gluing open weave fabric across the spine and about 2cm projecting back and front. This cloth and the ends of the hemp strings will be glued into the new hard covers. So what does it look like?

I had to abbreviate the title to make any kind of success of painting the spine!
You can see the strings, carefully unwound an fanned out, helping to hold the re-glued book into its new cover.

I also have an early graphic novel called Gods’ Man, and told in woodcuts. It was missing the printed spine, but still has the pleasingly decorated hard covers, so the task was to renew the spine. Easy enough to fit a new book cloth spine, after sewing in two tapes to bring sewn book and its covers firmly together. Picked a novel (and only partially successful) way of getting the title onto the spine. I traced the lettering from the cover and used that as a guide to cut the letters out of the book cloth, backing it with thin card, and covering all the new cloth with layers of the Japanese bamboo paper to push it towards the gold colour of the boards. It looks better on the shelf than it did, and there is a legible title.

Last challenge (for the time being) was to turn a pile of double sided photocopies into a bound book. I’ve had a long-term interest in low tech building. Some years ago I found a great book in the library of what was then Brighton Polytechnic. Long out of print I borrowed it to copy, keeping it in a cardboard folder. I wanted to make it book enough to go on the shelves, but not demanding of materials or my time – so a simple hard cover was needed, with built-in book cloth hinges to link the opening parts to the rigid sewn part. It will make sense when you see the pictures – I hope.

Built a bit like a photograph album, the spine is stitched through all the pages
The cloth ‘hinges’ on front and back covers allow the book to open easily

If you have been, thanks for reading this far.

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Book repair in Lockdown

My copy of Mrs Brassey’s ‘A Voyage in the Sunbeam’ was never in good condition. The cloth spine had become detached from the hard covers and much of the stitching had rotted and broken. Buoyed on by images of an old school friend’s book re-binding I determined to have a go. On his advice I bought a large sheet of handmade Japanese bamboo paper to repair tears in the pages. This paper weighs just 4 grams per square metre – normal copier paper is 20 times heavier! Being this thin it is hardly visible and does not add to the bulk of the repaired book. But it is a bugger to handle! A small piece can disappear. Just the slightest breeze, from turning round or picking up a paste pot, can send it into the air. And being nearly transparent it is hard to find again. It cannot be pasted, the lightest of brush strokes turns it into mush. You have to paste the torn paper and carefully put the repair piece onto it.

You can see that many of the individual bundles of folded sheets have become unstitched. In many cases the outermost folded sheet of each signature (that’s what each bundle is called) has become two separate pieces, worn away on the fold. Strong thin paper can repair this damage.

All the signatures had to be unstitched and then the whole sewn back together, then new book cloth had to replace the spine, carefully glued between the existing cloth and the boards of the hard covers. I could then glue the delicate and torn printed spine back onto my new one. I wish I’d photographed more of the repair process, but perhaps you are pleased I did not.

and here is the finished product. Even the new book cloth is almost the same colour.
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Refurbing planet Earth and capturing the Earth Moon relationship

My planet has suffered in more than a decade of English weather so I brought it indoors to the dining room Magrathea for a repair and repaint. The repair was needed because something, perhaps a playful fox, started the planet rolling and it tumbled down two stone steps causing a gash in Asia bigger than that meteorite strike in the Russian forests.

Repainted planet

The moon still hangs happily from the hornbeam tree at the end of the garden, about 60 feet away, the right relationship for these sizes of planet and satellite. Unlike the real moon, mine has a fine growth of algae which I rather like.

My Moon and its algae.

And now the best shot – the distant moon seen from high orbit over the Earth:

For the picture Jackie held a small LED torch beam onto the moon.
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Two moons, just four centuries and a day apart.

A friend and excellent photographer, Strat, put a photo of a 4 day old moon on Facebook and it reminded me of a drawing from 1609 in a book called Moon by friend Alexandra and her co-author Robert Massey. What caught my attention in the drawing was the way the observer interpreted his peering through a telescope to make out shapes and patterns on the surface. The curious elbow and spot elements struck me as very unlikely, but I can almost see them in Strat’s photograph.

Use the slider to move from one image to the other, sorry I failed to get them in identical orientations. Thomas Harriot did the drawing.

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Woodingdean Well Walk

Back in July (I’ve been busy!) I did an 8 mile walk from home to home via Woodvale Cemetery, the Race Course, a community orchard and some Access land to a very deep well in Woodingdean. Then completed the circuit via Happy Valley, some young bovines, Mount Pleasant, a golf course, Whitehawk, some grazing sheep and the General Hospital.

Trying to avoid public transport and get some interesting walking demands exploring things closer to home. The well was something I’ve heard about but never seen – not that there is much to see, just a twee bit of masonry and a heavy steel grid over a watery hole outside a Nuffield private hospital. The site was previously occupied by a technical training school for boys, built to help poor boys find a trade, and the well was started to find a cheaper water supply to the planned workhouse (still standing and part of the Brighton General Hospital buildings) The project did not go well (pun intended), a 6 foot wide shaft was hand-dug by workhouse inmates (free labour) to a depth of 400 and some feet in two years, the hole being lined with bricks as it descended BUT they did not find water.

Shafts were driven horizontally to intercept water, but none was found. So they decided to dig deeper, but only 4 feet wide this time, and still brick lined. Digging and bricklaying went on 24 hours a day until March 1862, when a bricklayer noticed the chalk floor of the well beginning to bulge upwards. A very rapid exit was needed as water began to pour into the base of the well. Men scrambled up ladders climbing up to 1285 feet to the surface. It is still the deepest hand-dug well in the world, and its base is 850 feet below sea level.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before getting to the well (which is at the end of the short projecting stick on the route shown above) we walked through a community orchard managed by local residents. They’ve planted hundreds of fruit trees and maintain meadow grassland areas. The air must be clean because there is a lot of lichen on the trees (above).

After the well diversion we walked south along the top edge of Happy Valley to find a spot for lunch. We must have provided a much needed novelty for the herd of young cattle, who slowly made their way over to us, egging each other on to be bolder. Once one of them had chewed my left bootlace we felt we had to withdraw!

This was the beginning of the return journey, over Mount Pleasant, and down into Wick Bottom:

This is Wick Bottom looking north, and Mount Pleasant is on the far right. From here on we get increasingly urban, with a golf course to cross, then down into a narrow track through thick bramble scrub on what was once a landfill site, but provided me with a few handfuls of ripe blackberries that day.

After passing through part of the Whitehawk housing estate we faced the steepest challenge – up a track over more open downland, complete with sheep, to the racecourse and General Hospital:

It seemed a lot steeper to me than this picture suggests. Volunteers have been clearing this slope of shrubbery over several years to allow the much rarer chalk grassland species back in, and now the grass is kept open by judicious application of sheep.

A brief taste of a summer now gone.

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Fascinating, curious and serendipitous – all in one day

Monday 6th July on a local walk with Jerry, circular from the front door with beers in the garden afterwards. Starting up through Hollingdean to Moulsecoomb station and then the steep bit up the downland sward of Hollingbury Hill. Here be the fascinating thing – what I believe to be a pair of mating red-bummed bumble bees. She’s much bigger and without any yellow bands, like her he has the red bum, but in addition a shoulder and back of the head yellow band and just a tiny yellow patch further down. Just like the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust say.

The Trust go on to suggest that he was lucky not to be in a battle with other males, most males never have sex at all, but spend there short time feeding and fighting, but not fuc . . . .(sorry).

Across Hollingbury Hill and north into the Stanmer Estate where we found the curious scene. There must be a play, short story of at least a joke to explain this empty Disarrono bottle and single left brown brogue. A task for Tom Stoppard surely?

Next it was across the campuses of Sussex and Brighton Universities, reminiscing about our times at both places where we had been students and employees, before finding a quiet spot for lunch. I even found a few ripe raspberries for dessert.

Heading in to Brighton across Falmer Hill we got a great view of the Isle of Wight, but you don’t have to believe me because it didn’t come out in the photograph!

View across Brighton not showing the Isle of Wight in the distance, though I assure you it was visible at the time.

Somewhere between Bevendean Estate and home we passed a small patch of reddish dandelion-like flowers which I had never knowingly seen before, but I knew instantly what they are called: ‘Fox and Cubs’. I had seen the term used on the Round Hill Facebook page, with a description. As it is the only British reddish dandelion-like flower it had to be fox and cubs. Nicely serendipitous.

And home in time for Beer.

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A gull’s gift – our own ‘Ambassadors’.

Some days ago a passing gull gifted us with a streak of lime on the front window. Gazing at it over the following days it began to remind me of something, then the Guardian of the 8th July told me what – the Holbein painting, The Ambassadors – or more particularly the deformed skull at the bottom of the painting.

So what, I wondered, did our pale streak hide if viewed from an acute angle? Here it is front on:

Peering along the ‘avian gift’ I got this image:

So what do you think? Do you know those wonderful pottery birds by the Martin Brothers? Well compare the one below. A bird gift from a bird.

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