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Succulent flowers 1

A friend said this looked like a scorpion’s tail.

The apartment I moved into a year ago came with an assortment of succulents in the balcony’s garden beds. I have never liked succulents. After a year of living with them, I still don’t like them — weird shapes, weird textures — but I have come to grudgingly admire their “take no prisoners” approach to self-propagation. These things just won’t be contained.

Two of my inherited plants flowered over the recent winter. One, conveniently, had a plastic plant label so I know what to call it here, but next week’s plant is merely “unknown”. Today we have Echeveria – Blade Runner.

Hmm, maybe the things on the end will turn into flowers?

The flowers look a lot better when seen from the front. I had to lean over the garden bed and hold the camera so it faced me, with the viewscreen swivelled so I could see what I was framing. They look huge in these shots, but were really about the size of a small grape. (Don’t you love my checked flannel shirt?)

The flowers were extremely appealing to the bird below. It’s a Noisy Miner (they’re called “noisy” for a reason!), and would visit numerous times each day. (It also liked the “unknown” succulent’s flowers that you’ll see next week.) Unfortunately, it never stayed very long and this was the only shot I was able to take.

Not a very flattering angle, for bird or flowers!

Posted for #FloralFriday

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Travel Memories 4: Granada

Flamenco in the afternoon.

The reason I went to Granada was to see the Alhambra, the Moorish palace/fortress. Checking online just now to date the Alhambra (largely 13th and 14th centuries), I see that these days (well, pre-pandemic) the site is so popular you must book timed tickets in advance; in 1992, I simply walked up from town when the mood took me. I wandered the back streets of the old town, stopped for tapas and sherry, listened to guitar and ‘canto jondo’. I strolled around the Generalife Gardens, where there always seemed to be the sound of water — gurgling, trickling, tumbling water. And I marvelled at the flamenco. Not paid performances or professionals, these were ordinary men and women, in jeans and skirts, having a great time dancing in tents set up in the streets. Some of the women wore elaborate (and heavy!) dresses. The makeshift tent floors vibrated and rang with the stamping of people’s feet, mothers danced with young children, and girls in their own ruffled dresses looked on hopefully from the sidelines. It was totally unexpected, and quite stupendous.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


click here for a larger version of the map below

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Choose a colour. Any colour.

Well, that’s what Jude said! “This week’s assignment – Choose a colour. Any colour, it could be your favourite one.” Orange is definitely not my favourite colour (that’d be blue) but Jude’s assignment this week is to “Allow only variations of the colour within your photograph.” I’ve gone for orange because I have a cheerful bouquet of poppies on my table right now, largely orange, and I thought they’d make a nice photo. Then the hunt was on for other orange photos! The bristles I also photographed today, but the rest are archives.

2020 Photo Challenge #33: variations of a colour

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60th Wedding Anniversary

Two very young-looking people cutting the wedding cake.

Today (20 August 2020) is my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I’m very sure they’ll be enjoying some bubbly and nice food to mark such a momentous occasion. Because they live in Canada and I live in Australia, it’s not really possible for me to pop ’round and join them, but I am thinking of them.

Happy Anniversary, Mum and Dad!

Here’s to you!

(my mother sent this photo of the balloons I had delivered on the day)

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Tomato Diary 6

First tomato! 19 August

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

The news is good for this update! I have not one but TWO tomatoes. Granted, not very big, but definitely coming along.

Tomato number two is to the right of the ‘large’ one and up a bit.

After the yellowing leaves reported in the last update, it was time for action. I bought some 10L pails for $2 each in my supermarket to use as pots (I added drainage holes), and extracted the two sets of two plants from their existing pots (maybe 3L in size), then very carefully prised apart the roots. I then planted two in each of two 10L pails, as far as apart in the pail as I could. The smallest plant moved into one of the now-vacant 3L pots; I would have thrown it out, as I did with another one the same size, but this plant was farthest along with flowers so I figured it deserved a chance. It’s the one showing tomatoes in the photos.

8 August: two in a new pail, two in an old pot. Once again, I buried the lowest set of leaves in the soil in order to get more roots, so the repotted two don’t look as tall as you’d expect.

Here are two shots of all five on the balcony. I’m a bit worried about how tall they’ll grow! They’re getting full sun now from sunrise (about 6.30am now) until the point where the sun is too far west to hit my balcony, roughly 1.30pm. So seven hours of direct sunshine. They’re also getting weekly fertiliser now.

19 August, basking in the morning sun.

19 August, basking in the morning sun.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 7.


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Travel Memories 3: Monaco

Is this row of helicopters not what you expected for Monaco? There is a reason! In 1998, while living in London, I won a trip for two to Monaco, courtesy of a radio station and whatever entity was sponsoring the trip. We flew to Nice, and then were taken in a private helicopter to Monaco. (If you have sharp eyes, you can just about make out the words “Heli Air Monaco” on the tail of the black helicopter in the feature photo.) The holiday was off to a great start! Sadly, the flight is more like a hop — practically up and then down again. Nonetheless, we felt as if we had arrived in style.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


click here for a larger version of the map below

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Travel Memories 2: Cannes

The Carlton Hotel, Cannes.

Back to 2008 for this photo. I was living in London, and the weather in August that year was dreadful: wet and grey and cold. On the spur of the moment, and desperate for some sun, I booked a trip to Nice for the bank holiday weekend. What bliss! Sun and blue skies and warmth, and, of course, France. Cannes is only a 30-40 minute train ride from Nice, so I went there too and ogled the rich people, the expensive yachts and the private beaches. I’d heard of the Carlton Hotel in association with the Cannes Film Festival — we’ve all seen photos of film celebrities posing at that hotel! — but was still surprised to see it in the flesh, so to speak.

Travel Memories: a single photo from a trip — one that always makes me smile, or reflect, or want to go back.


Travel Memories 1: Goa

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Tomato Diary 5

The good news: Flowers are opening!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

There’s good news and there’s bad news for this update. The plants are 25-38cm (10-15 inches) high and, as you can see above, the flowers are starting to open. However, as you can see below, not all is well with the plants.

The top of the plants look great, the bottoms look unhappy.

A closer view of those yellowing leaves at the base.

Not as bad with these two, but you can see it.

Something I read online suggests the plants aren’t getting enough nutrients from the soil. My parents (successful tomato growers) suggest the pots are too small — each plant should have its own 5-gallon (18L) pot. I have neither the room nor the soil for such huge containers, plus that would mean putting them on the balcony floor where they’d get much less direct sunlight. The tomato experiment may well hit the wall here!

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 6.