Thursday, 13 May 2021

Catching Up.


Yes, time I caught up on this blog, of course, so here goes.  I can't believe it is several weeks since I baked those Hot Cross Buns, but anyway we had a good Easter.   The weather was fantastic in London and we even had a picnic out in the garden, one of those lazy sunny days that you wish would never end.   The fact that it was so exceptional almost made up for the freezing weather that took its place and has stayed, on and off, ever since.  

It was freezing when we went on a bike ride a week or so after Easter with our daughter K. She wanted to go to Holland Park to see the Kyoto Japanese Garden.  It's so long since T and I have been to Holland Park that we'd never even heard of the Kyoto Garden, let alone seen it. So off we went, gloved, scarved and booted..

Holland Park's in Kensington, in Southwest London, not too far from Harrods and Kensington Gardens. It's what used to be the grounds of a mansion called Holland House, which was bombed in the war and reduced from the upper black-and-white picture below to the much depleted one of the remains of the East Wing.



It actually makes quite a reasonable building in its own right, so long as you don't realise what it used to be.  Behind it is another arcade, a charming garden and a really good cafe.  A life sized set of mural scenes can also be seen, and I wish I could show you them in real life, because part of their charm is that they seem so real you could almost walk into them. 

They've been painted under shelter of the arcading to protect them from the weather - and it has protected them - but of course they are always in the shade. So I've brightened my photos up to show the colours more clearly. If  you were standing there, your eyes would be on a level with those elegantly dressed people, and it wouldn't seem impossible that you could join that path and stroll up to join them. Or at least give the peacock some crumbs from your cucumber sandwiches.   


We found the Kyoto Garden a little distance away, and it was lovely, even though it seemed subtly unlike a  real Japanese garden to me. I can't put my finger on why, so perhaps my Japanese friends would be able to explain, but I think it might be because there was no moss to be seen, and moss seemed to play a definite part in the gardens I saw in Japan.  But I don't really know. And, as you see from the picture, it was charming, with the sound of the water very soothing after a ride through London's noisy streets.   


I don't remember seeing coins in Japanese koi carp ponds. I believe it is a European tradition, derived from the custom of offering valuables to the pagan river gods. So, since koi carp are lucky in Japan, this pond must be lucky twice over with all that money in it. I threw a coin in, to make sure I shared in some of the luck.  


Long ago we used to live quite near Holland Park, and in those days it was a bit dull, so we were impressed at how much it has improved, with much of the space given over to wild or naturalised flowers growing amidst the grass and under the trees.  But the peacocks are still there - I suspect they have been there for centuries, stalking across the grounds and making their strange, plaintive cry.

I've never seen one displaying its tail in a high wind before, but this time I was lucky and it was a remarkable sight to see it battling the gusts, sometimes swaying about so much that I really thought it would blow away. Its magnificent array of "eyes" quivered violently, and looked almost like real eyes trying to communicate.  A very odd and beautiful sight, and one I won't forget. 


We need to cross from NW to SW London to get to Holland Park, and one of the highlights of the ride for me  was coming across an early Victorian white stucco street with a house on the corner that was  decorated with flowers and animals all over its gateposts and up its front steps.  Here you see a badger, a polar bear and a turtle. 


And here are the front steps with a life sized sheep and a life sized dog guarding the door. 


I was told that the house belongs to Richard Curtis, who directed many of my favourite comedy programmes and also some world-famous films, including the appropriately named "Notting Hill." I hope my photos convey how charming and friendly the place seemed to be - a bit magical too, as if Mary Poppins might suddenly walk out with her umbrella in her hand.

A few days after our trip to Holland Park,  we took a walk with V, our other daughter, just to catch up really, as she is incredibly busy with her storytelling business which now keeps her busy at all kinds of odd hours.  T and I put our scarves and gloves and hats on and braved an even more freezing day than before to cycle to Waterloo which is halfway between V's house and ours. There, we all parked our bikes and took a walk. 

We happened to wander down Roupell Street, (mentioned in my last post) and this time I realised there were a strangely large number of vintage Citroen cars parked there, which I hadn't noticed on my earlier visit.  Apparently Roupell St. is also known for its Citroens, and has (or had till recently) a Citroen repair shop of its own.  
 

We drove over to see V and her family a bit later in the month, but as not all of us had been vaccinated at that time, we sat outside in the garden and also went for a little walk, passing the church where one of the boys has started to attend C of E services. Before lockdown, he'd been going to Westminster Abbey every Sunday (on the principle that if he's going to get up and go to church he might as well go to one he likes the look of) but he says the local one is very nice too.   It's obviously not your typical Church of England building.   Next time we walk past I'll try to go inside, but a storm was brewing and we decided to head back to the house.    


A bit later we accompanied V and G to Highgate Cemetery, which is so full of extraordinary stuff, stories and inhabitants, that it needs a post all to itself.   I did think I would do one after our visit, but then I didn't get round to blogging again.  It was one of several cemeteries owned by the London Cemetery Company in the 19th century, and fell into disrepair for a while. It now belongs to a cemetery trust which tries to preserve the uniquely Gothic atmosphere while also stopping the place from falling down.  Usually visitors can only take a guided tour, but during lockdown, self guided tours became available, and we thought it a great chance to linger in the place and choose where to go and what to see for ourselves.  

This is the entrance to Egyptian Avenue, which is lined with Grecian style tombs. There are huge laurel bushes - now huge laurel trees - growing above it, not to mention lots of ivy, blocking out the sun.  





There are far too many stories, memorials and Gothic curiosities at Highgate for me to describe in a short blog post, but if you want to know a bit more about the Cemetery and its background, there is information here or elsewhere on the internet.  I have to just mention to you George Wombwell, the menagerist, whose lion monument caught my eye.  A character (to say the least,) he was once offered a reward by Prince Albert, whose dogs he had successfully advised the prince about.   Wombwell reportedly replied, "What can you offer to a man who has everything?" but when Albert insisted, he chose wood salvaged from the Royal George, which had been the biggest warship in the world, with which to make his own coffin.   So I guess that very coffin is now reposing beneath the lion.... 


It is absolutely impossible to do Highgate Cemetery in brief, though. If you want to know all about it,  you will either need to do a lot of research, or take the guided tour. To be honest, though, we didn't think that much about the dead on this occasion, illustrious and quirky though so many of them were. The weather was bright and sunny, the wild flowers were so cheerfully flourishing and the sky so obligingly presented a striking patterned background to the Gothic tombs climbing steeply up the hillside. 


 And many of the trees, curiously tall and thin, were still in blossom.     We spent several hours there and did not get tired of it. And it wasn't even that cold!


My next venture out was when T and I went to Hungerford to do a few errands, calling in at the lovely Gerald Palmer woods on the way.  I've written about both before - I know the area well because my parents lived there for many years.  The little folly in its woodland clearing, with washing drying in the wind and sun, looked springlike, though the Spring was far less advanced there than 70 miles east, in London. In fact, there were hardly any leaves on the trees!  


Once in Hungerford, I admired this model of the town hall and notable local buildings (below) in the oldfashioned window of the Tutti Pole Restaurant  - someone had obviously spent their lockdown time well.  It appears to be snowy in the model, with an Easter egg sledging down the bridge at the right, which about matches the way the weather has been lately.    At the time, only food and essential shops were allowed to be open, so things seemed a bit quiet, but most of the businesses had apparently survived so I hope they will return.  And, in case you did not read my post in which I talked about the Tutti ceremony, here it is.   I sure hope the Tutti Pole will survive the effects of lockdown, I'd be so sorry if it went. 


Out on the Marsh nature reserve, there was oceans of blackthorn blossom and the long pale reeds were almost dazzling in the sunlight.


I thought the snow leopard in the haberdashery window was very fetching, too. 
 

During out time in London, we went, as ever, on the Heath, and saw birds all building their nests, including ducks (I think this is a moorhen) nesting on the ponds. 


The gardeners house at Kenwood has now opened again - it contains a little second hand bookshop and also sells English Heritage goods and plants. Although still freezing, the weather was dazzlingly bright again in this picture.. 


And April was also the month in which we finally rediscovered the Heath's chalybeate spring, which we had come across before but seemed awfully hard to find again. In fact, in the end, T. took a ride up to the heath by himself, and explored everywhere he thought this spring could be. And he found it, so was able to show it to me next time we went up together! 

 Chalybeate springs are full of iron, and there is no doubt that the water tastes... hm... a little strange, although it is drinkable and we found it quite welcome, and thought it was probably even healthy.  Well, at least I hope it was healthy since we drank quite a bit.  We even filled a bottle and took it home and over the next day the iron separated out of the water and the water became pink.  Certainly it was the supposed health benefits that turned Hampstead into a spa in the 18th century, and all those people can't have been wrong, can they?  So, fingers crossed.

I love the fountainhead, which was created in the 1920s in memory of one of the people who worked to preserve the heath. 


We also took 2 separate trips with K to see how the gardens at Fenton House were getting along, followed by lunch at Burgh House, which is, among other things, the local museum for Hampstead. 

  Fenton House dates from the 17th century and belongs to the National Trust. If you click the link you'll go to a site with a little film of the garden, but one of its charms is that it looks different at every season. The first time we went, in April, there seemed to be a lot of green and white around.



 The second time, those flower pots in the formal garden were much more colourful with brightly coloured tulips, some late daffodils, and forget-me-nots




The  orchard, which is to the right of the of the topiary, showed more signs of life on the second visit, but there still wasn't as much blossom as you'd expect, except for one tree which was covered in magnificent pompom clusters of white blossoms. It may be a variety of very late flowering cherry,  but to be honest, I don't really know what it is since I don't think I've seen anything like it before.  


It remained perishing cold, so when we left the garden we were pleased we could walk around the corner and find a sunny courtyard in Burgh House,  which served us some of the best soup and definitely the best herb scones I have had all year. plus what seemed like half a pound of cheese.  I'll write about Burgh House in a later post - it's a great place and  I can't wait for it to be fully open again. 
 

Well, that only brings me up to the beginning of May but I have to go and do some cooking now. We're having friends over for the first time since lockdown, all the way from Edinburgh.  It is tempting to feel we're on the way back to normality but we've been almost at that point before,  and I'm not entirely confident it will last.  

I've been reading a lot, and also watching a few movies. Many of them are kids movies which I've watched with Boy and Girl Twin - I adored "Nanny McPhee" and am in awe of Emma Thompson, who not only acted the title role but wrote the screenplay.    I was also quite taken by a Japanese film that I found on DVD in the local charity shop.  It's called "After the Storm" and was directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda.  I had enjoyed his "Shoplifters" and this film also won various accolades. 

 Apart from the brilliant Kiki Kirin stealing the show as a philosophical, unpredictable granny, I liked the film's message, which is that even though you can't do much to change life, or human nature, (including your own) you can make the best of it all and have some good times.   A good general attitude to have to life's everyday ups and downs, I think. 


I'll end now, and will be catching up on everyone else's blogs in the next week or two, as well as my own - again.   I hope your own last few weeks have been good.  



 











Sunday, 4 April 2021

Happy Easter!

 For the first time ever, I made Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday. 

They may look a bit wonky, but everyone liked them, I'm glad to say, so I'm going to make them again.  I don't do much yeast cookery but if you have the time to let the dough rise and time to knead it, I've realised, it's somehow very satisfying. 

I've had my second vaccination and feeling good about that, too.  I didn't get any of the threatened side effects from the Pfizer vaccine, although I felt a little limp and tired today.  But I just sat and read a book my younger daughter had lent me - Francis Spufford's new novel "Light Perpetual."


 The first few paragraphs of this review in the TLS tell you the idea behind of the book. Even though it's behind a paywall. I've linked to it because of the striking photograph.  Thank God those prams are not all full of babies. 

  The story tells of the might-have-been lives of five people who were killed as infants in an air raid during the second world war. The air raid was real, but Spufford's characters are not based on any of those who passed away. He has created them entirely from his head, and also created the premise that the raid did not, in fact happen.  And yet the book is so convincingly written and so true to life, that I ended up believing these five people simply must have existed, and also mourning the death of those tragic real children who never had a chance to live.  

His earlier book, "Golden Hill" about pre-Revolutionary New York, had this quality of almost painful realism, all the little details about daily life seemed to transport the reader right back to that unfamiliar (for me) time and place.  This is the cover of "Golden Hill", and if you spot it, I can only suggest you take a look and see what you think.  


He is a non-preachy Christian, so obviously he looks towards the light after death rather than the darkness, even though there is no explicit religious message in the books and even though his characters suffer terribly at times.   After the stress and strain of the last year, I'm glad to have an engaging, positive book to read, and I'd love to hear your views if you have read it too.  

Last week, England's lockdown relaxed just a bit, and we're now allowed to meet up to six people who aren't in the same household, so long as we are outside. So we went for a walk with S. who is in his first year of university studies ... except that he's at home doing university on Zoom when he ought to be 400 miles away at a real place with real people.   There's nothing he or any of his friends can do about it but I know it is a bit hard on them all.    

Anyway, we began on the South bank of the Thames, and he took T and me northwards for a mile or two to see the London home of the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, perhaps Agatha Christie's most famous creation.  

Poirot is one of S's favourite fictional characters, and he is one of mine too. David Suchet seems synonymous with Poirot, and I love everything about his long-running BBC series, from the brilliant 1930s style titles, to the acting, the settings, the wonderful costumes, and ... well just everything.   

In the BBC series, Poirot lives in an art deco block of flats which would have been the latest thing in the 1930s.   You can see the block at about 2.20 on this episode.... I found myself watching the rest of the episode, too!


It was surprisingly exciting to see it in real life, and find that it is in Charterhouse Square, a corner of London when many really old buildings survive.  (One of the things I am going to do when London reopens, is actually go round The Charterhouse, which I have never done.)     

So here is the block of flats. 


As S. pointed out, the cameramen in the Poirot series had to be rather careful with the camera angles so as to avoid the Brutalist concrete blocks of nearby Barbican.   It would never do for Poirot to have the backdrop of the architectural masterpiece on the right, which was begun in 1960 and not finished till the 1980s.  


After ambling around the eerily deserted Charterhouse precincts, we continued onwards through Smithfield, the old meat market, which is scheduled to become home to the re-built Museum of London. This looks like a great project.(here).

As of now, though, Smithfield's interesting in its brightly painted, semi-derelict glory, with a good selection of red phone boxes - I hadn't realised they came in different designs, but as you see, they do.


On our cycle ride home, we passed through a little back street near London Bridge, called Roupell Street. It was built about 1830 and I thought that 50 years ago would have been illustrating newspaper articles about slum clearance. Because it's exactly the kind of place which was knocked down all over Britain from the 1940s to the 1980s, Nobody wanted to modernise the little houses, and it was felt, quite rightly, really, that the impoverished people who lived in these dark, old little places (often infested with bugs and rats and without indoor sanitation) were entitled to something a bit better.  



Interesting that these little houses, indifferently modernised, are now sold for about one and a quarter million pounds.  If you look at the link, you'll see that the estate agent's particulars include a photograph in which you can see a railway arch, and it is extraordinary to think that Gustav Doré's famous picture of the slums of London is thought to have been based on the district directly adjacent to Roupell Street. 


In Doré's time, of course, it's certain that Roupell Street did not boast a fancy cake emporium in that little corner shop shown in my photo.  

T and I have been watching an episode of Grayson's Art Club every evening.   Grayson Perry is such a good ambassador for the power of art, which he believes helps us become more ourselves and deal better with whatever life throws at us.   (Here's a post I wrote about him in 2012. Gracious! Nine years ago!)    He's prodigiously original and talented, and is also probably now very rich, but he has humility, and appears kind and approachable, and he does not mind if his guests are famous or not  We also like that the programme offers glimpses of him working, as he does, in so many different media and shows how his ideas spill out of him.

 And, as always, I am happy it is Spring.  I am enjoying my Spring bulbs on the balcony this year, and so I should. I managed to put in two orders of bulbs with the supplier, and so have more blooms than can really fit on the balcony, although I have put some in the front garden and on the front steps.   It cost a fortune. I don't know if it was worth the money, but it is done now,  and I am very happy to make the most of it.   

 These are this year's favourite narcissi.  Behind them is a very large cherry tree at present covered in bright white blossoms. When the sun is on it, it looks as if there has been a snowfall.  Even the twins were impressed, and both of them gazed at it for a while.




Now I'm hoping that the freezing cold weather here in London will warm up a bit tomorrow so we can have a picnic with K, F and the twins in their garden.  We are not yet allowed to meet anyone else indoors, though it seems rather silly to me, if people have been fully vaccinated. Still, I'm going to stick to the rule for a while yet, and see how the infection rates go. 

Have a happy Easter Day, everyone! 

Sunday, 21 March 2021

So I Had to Write a Post Today!

My old friend Adullamite gave me a prod the other day to write something, anything. And I agree he is right, though to be honest,  I have always thought of this as a travel-related blog, and, of course, going anywhere or mixing with new people is exactly what we're now constantly being told to avoid at all costs. Still, we had an exciting event in our communal garden last week. Or at least it was exciting to me. Do you remember that story about the woman in New York who found another apartment behind her bathroom mirror?   Well, we found a secret building in our garden!  

We live in a flat in a large Victorian house which is built around a 3 acre garden square, (or, in fact, a rectangle.)  It is behind the houses, and it is quite invisible from the street, and it slopes down the hill from top to bottom. 


At the top of the hill is what used to be a gardener's compound, with a shed and glasshouses. The glasshouses have long gone, and the shed is full of garden equipment. Next to this compound, for as long as I can remember, has been an ivy clad brick wall in poor condition, accessed by a locked door. It appeared to belong to a nearby mansion block. 

But actually, it doesn't. Someone in the block took it over without permission years ago and gained what I believe are known as "squatter's rights".      Now, our garden chairman is working with the local Lord of the Manor (I kid you not) to reclaim it, and, last week, I was able to walk through this door, and have a look. 

There was a brick building dating from about 1910, with a little courtyard and a passageway leading round the corner and onto a neighbouring street. The whole area had been neglected and choked with rubbish for years, and definitely needs total renovation, but now the main building has been cleared to reveal a fairly spacious room with a blocked up window, and a smaller room off it.  The legal situation is still unclear, but various possibilities are opening up. Conservatory, storage, residents' meeting place?  Who knows?  We can't do much until the legal situation's fully resolved, but it's something to think about, and strangely exciting.

 

T and I have been busy.  After we received our first vaccinations, we home-schooled the twins till schools returned on 8 March.  They'd been quarantining since early January, with online Zoom classes and work to be done at home. We had to supervise this, and found that Zoom is a terrible way to teach.  Pupils of all ages seem to struggle, mainly because there's none of the give and take of normal school life. As the twins held their wobbly pencilled work up to the screen in bright sunlight, it was clear that teacher wasn't going to be able to read much they'd done, let alone give useful feedback.  

After they'd finished their schoolwork each day, we taught them things we thought they'd like to know, practised reading and tables, took them out and played with them... and we also made a movie.  It was supposed to be three minutes long but somehow turned into an exciting adventure to which they contributed lots of dialogue and ideas, and ended up at eighteen minutes.   

It was all fun and we generated far more noise than usual - not just shooting the film, but playing, dancing, shouting, racing around - with me editing the sound track of the film into the night, and we did worry a bit about what the Persian couple living downstairs might be thinking, since the place is not that soundproof.  

But they said they liked the sound of children bringing some life into lockdown, and were, in fact, very nice about it. So I thought I might buy them a card for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is this weekend.  And that meant a trip to the nearby area of Kilburn, where I'd heard a Persian shop or two had opened up. 

It's about a mile walk to Kilburn High Road from here, and in all these years I've never found it to change much - a busy, slightly shabby place with heavy traffic and many immigrants. It's okay, with some nice shops and cafes, a good cinema and theatre intermixed with pound-stores, bookies, slot arcades and pawnshops, lots of dust and grime. 

There are always plenty of bits of Kilburn that seem to have seen better days  - like the Red Lion pub (above) here, once a glittering Victorian gin palace, now a sad sight with steel security doors and broken windows.

You can see by the huge mosaic plaque built into the space between its chimneys that this pub was once really proud of itself, announcing it was established in the year 1444...

...and rebuilt from this - below in 1890.   The pre-1890 Red Lion looks charming to me, but no denying that the rebuild was on a much grander scale and this little Regency building no doubt seemed pathetically small and outdated, specially if the owners were were planning to compete with the Black Lion down the road, which supposedly dates originally from the sixth century, and what's more has a magnificent Victorian interior - read more here about the Black Lion.  


For centuries, both Lions, and all the other pubs of Kilburn High Road have done well.  That noisy dirty thoroughfare around which the place is built is in fact part of Watling Street, the incredibly ancient road which leads from the Southeast of Britain, all the way to Wales in the North-West. Most of it is still in use today, suitably modernised.  I find that amazing, considering the Romans paved it around the time of the birth of Christ.   You'll find more about Watling Street here.   

Kilburn must have had so many inns because travellers on the road would have been seeking a place to eat, drink and stay for centuries.     Just across the road from the Red Lion is the Juniper, known for most of its life (since the 15th century) as the Cock Tavern, possibly because it provided entertainment in the shape of fighting cocks.  Nice.  It has only recently changed its name, when it was refurbished, only to find that lockdown hit. Its website isn't functioning, and I don't know if the business has survived. (I think those are plastic flowers hanging outside, so they don't signify much).  We should find out before long. 


I am not alone in in wondering how our towns and cities will change after more than a year of being closed down most of the time.  In particular, it's hard not to wonder what will become of London (not just the pubs but the property prices) after this pandemic.  But if 2020 taught me one thing, it was that I can't foretell the future, so I don't bother worrying too much. Strangely liberating, that. 

Anyway, when T and I arrived at the southern end of Kilburn High Road, we found that it had come up in the world so much that it almost didn't even look like Kilburn any more.   There are some fine new buildings, including a library, lots of apartments for sale, a brightly-coloured bit of architecture that's a new school, and, in the middle of it all, a section taken over by some Persian shops and cafes - a bakers, a supermarket, restaurants and a beautiful lounge selling all varieties of cakes, including big red rose meringues decorated with gold leaf. I am afraid I had to take photos on the phone, which is not really up to the job, so my picture doesn't show these cakes in their true splendour, glowing in their lighted cabinet in a dimly lit lounge.   



The supermarket and its adjoining shops were all so busy with people shopping for New Year that I didn't take many photos, nor did I buy anything.  (Instead, I asked my daughter V. to pick up something at her local Persian shop in Southeast London, "Persepolis,"  which has a more covid-compatible layout. Here's Persepolis's website, and when things get back to "normal," (whatever that is) I recommend a trip to their nice shop and cafe when in Southeast London.     

Back in Kilburn, I snapped these bowls of sprouting grass, "Sabzeh" for sale outside the supermarket. This signifies renewal, and I am told that sabzeh is one of seven items, all of which start with "S" in  Farsi, which are used in celebrating the new year.  

Another indication that this bit of Kilburn is going up in the world is a piece of street art I'd never seen before - a sundial where you yourself point to the time.  The months of the year are incised around a north pointing line on the coloured square shown below, (take a this picture on Flickr shows it much better). This was the exact moment when the sun obligingly came out (for about a minute) in the whole day!

  Public artwork like this suggests that someone is taking an interest in the area, so it was good to see. 



On the way back, we passed an early magnolia in full bloom, shining out under the dull, dark sky. (I have lightened the picture considerably to show the magnolias better)


On arriving home, I decided to treat myself to a Japanese sweet, the last one left in a box that was sent to me by a friend last Autumn.  I think they are made of bean curd and most of them contained tiny jelly models of autumn leaves, but this one contained a fish. It didn't taste of fish at all, but the pale blue-grey jelly is clear and perfect, and when you start to eat it, the reflections of where the jelly has been broken, make it look as if the fish is swimming in water.  


I thought it was almost too nice to eat. 

V did get a card and small gift of chickpea cookies at "Persepolis" so I cycled into central London to collect them and to have a little stroll around with her.   We couldn't believe we had missed this memorial to Agatha Christie, the detective writer, (shown below) specially since we'd spent about half an hour standing around exactly that spot, in Great Newport Street, just a few weeks ago.  Despite its large size, it must be one of the most unobtrusive monument in London!  I assume that is a lifelike bust of her. 


It was put up in 2012 and contains biographical information and lots of little images, plus a list of her books, which continues on the other side of this double-sided monument.  Several have their titles in Braille - a nice idea.   


We bought a takeaway coffee at Orée, just off Bow Street, and I couldn't resist buying a charcoal baguette too.  It is totally black inside, and looks intriguing.  It tastes good, too. I've had charcoal biscuits before but never charcoal bread, though apparently it is good for the digestion.  


And, as always in Spring, Nature is its usual eyecatching self. 


Early spring is one of my favourite times of year, and the willows, heavily pollarded last year, are now exploding with new leaves. 
 

 
Well, Adullamite, will that do?  I hope so!    I am glad that you encouraged me to write a post. There was quite a lot to say, after all. 

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