Archive for March, 2007
So, there’s frilly lettuce, multi colour Swiss chard and some mini pumpkins in the basket. But no onions. Having finally got round to ordering my seeds for the growing season I find that Marshalls has sold out of my favourite Red Barron and Gold Fen onion sets. Serves me right for being so slow. But since spring seems at least a month early why am I two weeks later with my online ordering than I was last year? Is it because the seasons are all blurring into one?
Last year’s onions are still good enough to eat this spring. Pity I am too late with this year’s order…
Looking out the kitchen window, I can see the frogs are raring to go. But they have been popping their heads above water for months. In fact winter has never really arrived in the back garden. Snowdrops appeared about six weeks ago but geraniums have been blooming on the windowsill non stop since last summer and there are buds on the clematis, which means at any one time there are three seasons contradicting one another.
It doesn’t feel right. I obviously have a stronger puritan streak than I like to admit. Plus a romantic longing for the time when winter made frosty etchings on the bedroom window (inside!). My puritan says we don’t deserve to enjoy spring unless we have suffered some real winter. My romantic loved those few sharp days last week which made the stars sparkle and in February we even had one day of snow which kindly hid all the rubbish in really beautiful garden makeover. The hypocrite in me complains about the cold.
I do think that climate change is deeply confusing, not just because it fiddles with the mating timetable of birds and frogs but because it upsets our inbred responses to changing seasons.
However, today I am quelling my inner prophet of doom because the sun is shining through new pinky red leaves on the Cercidiphyllum, and my Marshall’s basket is full to the brim. This year I promised myself I would not buy more than I could possibly grow in the vegetable patch. But Beth curled up for a snooze on the pile of unsown seed packets from last year (so I couldn’t double check what I don’t need to order) and as always I gave way to the temptation of glossy colour pictures. I was going to get the courgette collection anyway (including the tasty pale green Lebanese variety ‘Clarita’) but I couldn’t stop myself clicking on Festival, which produces trailing stems for squashes the size of grapefruit (‘ideal roasted’) and carrots (carrots! I never manage to get them to grow bigger than AA batteries) because Sugarsnax 54 promise sweet roots ‘extra high in beta-carotene’).
Even so I have still managed to clock up a smaller bill than last year: the 2006 veg and flower seed total came to £46, this year it is £31.8. Not so good for Marshall’s – and I will have to get the onion sets from somewhere else.
March 23rd, 2007
…I became aware that the camera did not see space, it saw surfaces. The camera sees geometrically – we must see psychologically.
I like David Hockney’s words. Although they are taken from the book that goes with his Year in Yorkshire paintings, they express the way I feel we should be looking at the design of cities, and especially city centres. Real life is not just about surface appearances – the look of houses, offices, shops, streets, gardens and squares – but what happens in, on and around them.
Cafe culture in Budapest
A similar point was made last night by John Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee who has become something of a guru on the subject of urban regeneration. In an interview with BBC Scotland news, he cast a critical eye over Glasgow’s waterfront development. He saw too many iconic buildings and – as often happens – found that the best views had been given to car parks, “they [the cars] can sit all day looking at the river”.
Norquist, now leading the Congress of New Urbanism, says iconic buildings have a place but Glasgow needs to connect the centre with the waterfront and that means making space for people: more human scale buildings; shops, cafes and the quirky corners that people create for themselves when they get the chance.
I admit I am slightly obsessed by street life. Since I became a board member of Edinburgh City Centre Management Company I am constantly comparing Scotland’s capital with other cities. Now I am chairing the ECCM Street Life sub committee I hope we can help to encourage more creative human activity in public places.
There is that new pedestrian space in Castle Street and work will soon start to open St Andrew Square garden to the public. Then there are plans to increase public space in the Grassmarket. In my opinion all these projects represent some of ECCM’s best work and I am not alone. The weekly Farmers’ Market on Castle Terrace wins awards, now Castle Street has a monthly food market which may soon win an award (If you don’t already know, The Eating Place happens on the last Thursday every month, 4-8pm).
But we need much more of this kind of vitality. What struck me about Prague was the way live music echoed from almost every church and buskers gathered round pavement cafes, on squares and street corners to entertain the crowds. The message is that there is a good deal more to life than shopping. I would love to see Edinburgh developing more of this kind of generous, welcoming spirit. Why shouldn’t spaces like Castle Street be the stage for all kinds of art, music, dance and theatre – as well as food?
More to life than shopping: street music in Prague
Footnote: Another urban guru, Jan Gehl, the Danish architect who rolled back street car parking to create dynamic and prosperous pedestrian space in the centre of Copenhagen, was among consultants informing urban designers Gillespies on the ‘humanisation’ of the Grassmarket. Gehl attributes at least some of his success in creating public space to the fact that he married a psychologist.
March 14th, 2007
How about this. That picture of elk crossing the Trans-Canada highway has produced another comment from the other side of the world. In case it has slipped too far down screen for you to spot, here again is the picture that Beryl emailed me a couple of months ago.
First of all Lonnie posted a comment to say, sorry, this is a fake photo (or words to that effect as you can see here). I was a little disappointed but – pending further information from Beryl – in no position to argue. Photoshopping elk into an otherwise bland motorway scene seems an odd way to spend your time but people do much stranger things (while we are at it, perhaps we could have some dinosaurs roaming Princes Street in Edinburgh).
But then last week I opened my blog to find another intriguing comment from Steve Sprengl who says, nope, no question, it’s definitely real (as you can see here). Apparently Steve had an argument with his dad who came back with clinching evidence from a neighbour who often travelled on this stretch of the highway and has seen the elk with his own eyes.
I love the serendipity of this discussion. On impulse I posted a picture from my cousin Beryl because I was intrigued and cheered by a quirky illustration of a true (and undisputed) story of safe crossings for wandering wildlife. I am now equally intrigued by the chance Googling that seems to cause wandering humans to stumble across my blog. What question did they key into the search engine to end up here?
March 13th, 2007