Well clearly that's not quite the lyrics that S-Club planned, but next year MOH and I are having a party. Quite a big one, well maybe not that big but we'll be celebrating 110 years. That's fifty years each and ten years married before you age me, or him!
And our birthdays and wedding anniversary fall in May, June and July we'll most likely plump for a date somewhere in the middle, much the same as we did when choosing the date to get married eleven years ago. As we're creatures of habit - we all are deep down - we're once again planning to have the party in our garden. This time though, the house is more finished and for those of you that were at the wedding, both bathrooms will be working this time too.
So we've started to think about what makes a good party...
People, ticked - we haven't done the guest list yet, but we know plenty of good people.
A date, well June-ish is like a half-tick, isn't it?
Invitations, well most likely by email but I'm hoping to make some proper ones too.
While we can't control the weather - wouldn't that be handy - we have thought about having some tented outside space. I'm not sure yet if that's a gazebo or something hired, but a half-tick here too for considering options. I've also got one eye on those shops that sell mini-marquees to see if one comes up at a reasonable price, and if it does I'm on it.
It's also the type of occasion that means I have the perfect excuse to spend time on Pinterest and all in the name of research. But let's be honest I don't really need an excuse. If you want to see more of what I'm pinning as inspiration I've included the board at the bottom of this post. I'm pretty sure though there'll be bunting and fairy lights and pretty vases of flowers.
Food and drink - yes we've already thought a lot about these, so I'm giving that a half-tick too. Some of it I'm going to encourage MOH to make - his desserts are just fabulous - some of it I'll do too and we're thinking of getting someone in for the fiddlier bits. The local craft brewery can supply some ale - ok and some fizzy lager too - and maybe we'll have a day trip to France to find some nice wines. Definitely a half-tick perhaps even a three-quarters-tick here.
Music, we've thought about that too. From a slightly unusual perspective, I'll admit. And that's how we can match the volume levels of our neighbours. Well for one day only, the rest of the time we don't stand a chance. I was thinking brass band or steel drums, but MOH was thinking about a large amplifier. We're undecided on this one, you probably can tell. It's likely to be none of these, but who knows?
No washing up, no breakages and even not having to worry about if anything might break. It will certainly make clearing up much easier too. And I'm sure there's everything we could need - plates, cutlery, small beakers for the desserts and glasses for wine and beer. I'm claiming a three-quarters tick for this one too!
Now, what have I missed?
Well by now I'm pretty sure you know just how much I like a plan!
Our long held plan for our grass - or lawn if we're feeling posh - has been to give it more definition and shape it into a series of intertwining circles. We know that doing this will make our garden look better as our grass has sadly lost its edge and is looking a bit ragged.
The thing that has been holding us back though is getting it wrong. What we realised this weekend is that it's only spray paint.
We'd bought a can of spray paint with the intention of marking it out and getting going a while back, but after getting all low-tech with a bit of string tied to a stick to mark out the circles, we sprayed our first circle and then came to a grinding halt when it all got a bit too tricky.
And now a year or so on the grass isn't getting any better. The edge isn't righting itself and I knew we needed to do something about it. Even our gardeners (who cut the trees, mend fences and lay patios) advised us to give our grass an edge the last time they were here. I think they were angling for more work, but have obviously been disappointed!
So there was nothing else for it. We found the now rusting spray can of paint in the shed (miraculously) and set about trying again. This time freehand. What was the worse that could happen? Well, yes we could have a lawn full of random white marks, but if we got it wrong it would wash off in the rain...
So with spray paint in hand, off I went. And then I popped upstairs to view my handiwork:
I wasn't happy with a couple of the circles:
- the first one (at the bottom of the picture) as the gap between its edge and the patio was too big - even with the small extension I have planned for our patio. Yes it's a new patio, but as I have enough slabs leftover to extend it by one slab's width and to add a dedicated spot on the right for MOH's barbecue, it seems rude not to. And it saves me a job of getting rid of them elsewhere... because they're far too nice to use at the allotment.
- and the second one which apart from not really looking like a circle, was probably too big. Making it smaller (see the picture below) looks more balanced I think.
So with these changes marked in my head off I went and sprayed some more.
Yes, that looks better.
And yes we now have lots of random white, sometimes circular patterns marked on our grass and you know what? I'm now more certain it's the right thing to do. What do you think?
This is what it looks like looking back to the house:
In the gaps between the beds and the edge of the grass circles we'll lay some slate. We probably don't have enough but we've been harbouring a tonne of the stuff since we bought our patio slabs so it'll be nice to see it spread around at least part of the garden at last.
Our next job was to measure how much edging to buy. This involved MOH and I draping a 5 metre tape measure around the outside edges of the circles - the ones you can see here and a larger part-circle which is obscured by the in-flower yellow forsythia which also hides my greenhouse and MOH's shed from view.
With a ten percent addition for slack measuring and some leeway, we made it sixty five metres which is quite a lot of edging. Eek! I'm between two companies right now who both sell metal edging which sinks into the ground with the help of a mallet. If you've got something similar I'd be interested to know what you used, what you think of it and if you'd use it again.
And all of this not only confirmed how much I like a plan, but also how much of a visual person I am. I could have measured the slabs to make sure we had enough for the extra row of patio, but oh no it made much more sense (to me) to lug the slabs down the length of the garden and lay them roughly in position. Then when I was happy it would work, we took them back again. If our neighbours were watching I'm sure they'd have been amused with all of our gardening antics last weekend.
So with a rough plan in place, I now need to:
- contact the gardeners about laying the patio extension
- find out how much skips cost
- look for a random piece of paper which is a deposit we put down on some edging at the Chelsea Flower Show a good few years ago which of course I've now misplaced
- decide and order the edging and get started.
And then I can move onto the next phase which involves sleepers and even more digging. I'm definitely feeling inspired and I think this year we could actually get it done. Wish me luck!
We're home after a short break cycling between Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire with just what we could carry in our panniers and of course wicker shopping basket. I'll share more on what we saw on our trip soon but first I want to reflect on our learnings, while I still remember them.
So how did it go?
On the whole it went well and was, as we hoped a useful test for our trip to the Loire in the summer when it will hopefully be a little warmer and our clothes will be a little lighter and smaller.
It was slightly strange to cycle with the panniers on the back of the bike to start with, but we soon got used to it. MOH had done the gentlemanly thing and ordered larger panniers for his bike, and so carried more of our gear than me, which was good news.
Over the four days we cycled 95 miles: 25 miles on the first day, a 35-miler the next day followed by just a short ride into town on the third day before a 28-miler on the last day to get us back to the car. So a decent enough distance to call it a real test.
The packing took more planning than normal as space was at a premium, but even so with my expert packing skills we still managed to take all this:
- Trousers x3 - jeans for cycling in, cycling leggings as backup and jeans for the evening
- Cycling base layer, fleecy cycling top and cycling windproof jacket
- Shoes x2 - cycling trainer-type shoes and shoes for the evening
- Tops x3 - two t-shirts and a shirt
- Slippers (under duress)
- Trousers x3 - a pair for cycling in, running leggings as backup in case of wet weather and a pair for the evening
- Cycling vests x2 - gym-style tops with wicking ability, one to wear and another as backup
- Long sleeved tops x4 - two for cycling in (yes another backup) and two for the evenings
- Shoes x2 - trainers for cycling, ankle boots for evening
- Pyjamas and slippers - yes my warm slippers with the red furry bobbles on!
- Fleece and a jumper - the fleece for cycling in, the jumper to warm me up
- Scarf and leather gloves
Plus: cycling locks, water bottles, a small flask, cycling gels and energy bars, maps of the areas, phone chargers, iPad, underwear, toiletries and make-up and a medley of plastic bags. And my diary, I didn't want to be without something to write in for the whole week...
I was convinced the weather would be wet at some point and while we had some drizzle, that was on the day we spent exploring Newark-on-Trent so we were able to duck inside when it was at its worst, and thankfully that was nothing like we've seen this weekend, so that was good news. I wasn't expecting the nice weather on Good Friday though, and that was welcome, if not a little warm!
So what did we learn?
Quite a bit:
- Our panniers actually hold quite a lot. Clearly our clothes at this time of the year are bulkier than the ones we'd hope to wear in France in the summer, so that was good news.
- It was a holiday with a lot of unpacking and repacking, as our heaviest items - shoes and toiletries - were always at the bottom of the panniers.
- We need stickers of some sort to be able to distinguish which of our panniers is which, because invariably we'd look in the wrong pannier first.
- Our bike racks are the same size, which means on the day around Newark we were able to take one of my small panniers and that could be carried by MOH, instead of me.
- The smaller pannier easily takes a bottle of wine standing up, along with our other shopping such as pork pies, some local stilton, crisps and some fruit. The French stick however didn't fit in the pannier so that needed to be in my shopping basket.
- Sometimes the best evenings on holiday involve a bottle of wine, cheese and other provisions (see 5 above) and a picnic in the room.
- Towpaths can be quite bumpy to cycle along.
- We packed too many socks - both of us - so next time we can cut down on those!
So we think not taking to the car to France could now be a serious option, as well as being quite an adventure. We still need to confirm how we'll get our bikes to France as it was nice to cycle with our own bikes, instead of hire bikes like we did in Bavaria. The only downside to that though is not being able to bring back very much wine, as we won't have the boot of the car...
So yes, a useful trip to test out our panniers. We stayed in some lovely places, ate some fantastic food and cycled through some beautiful countryside where neither of us had visited before. As I said at the start of the post, expect more on all of that soon!