The International Steam Pages

Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer... 2011

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2011 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.

Sitting in Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire in August, at the end of a much better than average summer, it seems a not inappropriate theme after a dreadful start to 2011. Of course if you had a classical British education you will know that it was a case of 'pride cometh (or goeth) before a fall' and Richard ends the play offering his kingdom for a horse... We don't have a horse but we are grateful to those who do because they keep Yuehong's new roses growing well.

As we had been warned, when we arrived in early June 2011, the garden was a little overgrown, but after a few days, the worst of it had been removed, 90% first by hand and the remainder with the mower.

As for the fall, it wasn't me but Yuehong who came off her bike and dislocated her elbow. It was extremely painful for her, but the British National Health Service rose to the occasion and for me the only pain was paying for a taxi home from the hospital. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan rescued our bikes and returned them next morning. She took consolation in the way she knows best... Coffee cream, chocolate fudge and cheese cakes, each reduced to half price or better from our local shop.

Soon, we had to hire a car for the day because Yiran had his visa, there was just time to stop for a quick look at Bibury on the way to Heathrow in early July. We helped find him a very part time ('Mac') job in Gloucester, at home he spends most of the time asleep while he sits out his waiting period until he is a freer agent.

Builders being builders, the new wooden floor to replace the carpets lost in the flood was not quite perfect, but that was soon rectified and I varnished the skirting and architraves. This is how it looks and it's tea time with the latest cake well on its way to being history, some Java sugar mill plates are behind:

As effectively a 'retired gricer', most readers would have expected me to have given a high priority to mounting my collection. In practice, it's had to wait for the occasional rainy day and is still far from finished, in particular a lot of Brasso needs to be applied. This is most of my Indonesian PNKA plates, the gap at the bottom right is 'in memoriam' for a Henschel stolen in transit from China along with a fair amount of bric-a-brac. I had many wonderful experiences in China over the years but, alas, more bad experiences there than in the whole of the rest of the world put together by far; I have no plans to go back. (That was 2011, now by 2013 I have found a replacement at great expense.)

Continuing the wood theme, I demolished as much of next door's hedge and conifers as I could get away with but also rebuilt our garden seat whose rotten wood had collapsed under me:

Not all the excess wood went up in a bonfire which was so intense that the hedge caught fire - being hawthorn it is rapidly recovering. Summer evenings have been cool this year, so we've haven't had much opportunity to use our 'chimenea':

When we stocked our country house garden in China with roses in 2006, they came at an unrepeatable bargain price. Good such plants in the UK start at GBP 10, so if Yuehong wants them in quantity they are going to have to come in non-standard ways. Two came with the house and are well established. The third was a house warming present to ourselves and is currently looking quite comfortable preparing for a good show next year, The fourth was a hand-me-down potbound rambler which sat and sulked for 3 weeks in its new home and then decided it liked where it was and started to shoot ever upwards. To call the next two 'end of season' left overs would be kind, they were in plain awful condition but very cheap. We were meant to be walking home from a recce visit to the garden centre at Huntley, but in the end we had to come back by bus. Did you ever see a rose with brown leaves?

There's been so much to do that the pond took a while to fix, with the water plants cut back and a new pump installed for the waterfall feature. One of our many frogs was so chuffed that it came out to have its picture taken: 

Meanwhile, the nature of our weather and location dictates that the best part of the day is around dawn, half way through August that happens at 06.00. This is what it looks like looking east and west, taken 5 seconds apart, neither picture has been 'Photoshopped' except for cropping. Guess who was sent out with the camera and who stayed in bed looking out of the window?

The greenhouse looks a lot better now Yuehong has cleaned the mould off it. There's a pile of wood to chop parked by the shed next to it and the top shrub bed is still totally out of control; there's a lot still to be done, it won't be completed before winter comes.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson