When An Idea Hits
This is how I feel when a new book hits me. A Plymouth Story had been wandering around for some while, here and there I wrote things down but nothing had fallen into place nothing solid or tangible, just odd ideas and feelings. Then one day from out of nowhere something nudges you or pops into your head and there it is, the story. I have been used to characters dictating the way things should go so it was a bit of a shock when A Plymouth Story finally popped up as it had been hanging around in the background, always there but not quite ready.
Strangely enough it wasn’t the boats in the marina where we went for coffee on a Sunday evening, or even the sea that was the trigger, it was this picture of the sun just coming up over the distant mountains that did it. As I stood there watching dawn come tumbling across the valley, I remembered times when walking the dog I would stand on the beach and watch the sun rising over the horizon. A sight that always made me think of sailing ships seeing a new day or perhaps sighting the enemy, of sailors watching the sun slowly climbing up the sky forecasting a warm day . Little did I think as I stood there that one day it would inspire me to write a story.
Putting The Story Together
I have always been interested in sailing ships and their history, perhaps it was the fact my birthday is on Trafalgar day, maybe a bit of Nelson got me, who knows. What I do know is that my thirst for historical facts and figures, plus battles won and lost, fights, skirmishes, sneaky goings on and the personal history of those in charge has driven me to acquire a small library of books and information. Visits to museums, Portsmouth docks, the Victory and Warrior all contributed to my knowledge and writing. My first attempt at this was the Jason Watson series. A look at the social side of life the things that were and weren’t acceptable, how the rich and powerful lived and carried on treading a line that was outwardly correct but inwardly often immoral. But it was not totally what I was after.
I wanted a personal story of life aboard ship for the ordinary sailor. Most men were pressed into the service or sent from prisons. So this is where I started from no rich parents to provide money and a step on the ladder, just an ordinary man who lived and worked on land on this basis I began to form the character of James.
A Plymouth Story
This is not Plymouth but Dartmouth, but try to imagine its Plymouth in the 1700’s and you’re looking at a street. Now imagine the houses without the main road and lighting. Instead picture cobbled streets leading down towards the jetty and sea wall. Picture houses packed together, horses pulling carts over straw covered streets to try deadening the noise. Boys or men pulling hand carts along with sea chests on them on their way to an inn, people selling goods or just calling out to friends. Into this comes a chandlers clerk, hardworking and honest, but at the beck and call of a mother who wallowed in her ill-health demanding this and that, a man with no life of his own. Watch as on his way to the apothecary for more medicine he is knocked on the head and wakes up far out to sea onboard the Frigate Amazon. This is a story of adventure, life onboard the Amazon seems strange to this man, but James has a thirst for learning, now you have the beginning of an adventure.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Book Reviews, Our Life | Tagged America, American war of independence, Chatham, doctors, medician, naval history, Nelson, Plymouth, Portsmouth, royal navy, sailing, St Barts hospital, West Indies | Leave a Comment »
BIG MAMA X
It was confirmed yesterday morning that ‘Big X’ is actually ‘Big Mama X’ and is sitting on at least one egg (Boris told them one is less work than 4)
The news was reported to me by the Finca reporter Boris Blackbird and his news-hound Tricky Dicky Redstart. I confirmed the report by peeping into the nesting box and seeing one egg. Boris said he had had his suspicions about ‘Big X’ but he wasn’t sure until Tricky Dicky started to tell him of conversations with ‘The Cooler King’, along the lines of hens moods when they are ‘nesting’. He said she is getting really stroppy and wont let me sleep in the box at night. It was a good job the humans kept a fire going or he would have frozen. As Tricky said ‘CK’ didn’t know about real life like we do.
Now when we bought these two I was under the impression that they were two males as they fought for a day when put together. Plus it was always ‘Big Mama X’ who was in charge of the escape attempts, ‘C.K.’ seemed a bit submissive to me I suppose I should have known. Then a week ago BMX started staying in the box. Wife got really worried, one of her ‘boys’? didn’t seem well BMX was quiet, and poor old C.K. was sitting on the top perch on his own at night, no matter what time we went into the kitchen. Well now she knows and it’s a hard job trying to stop her from peeking into the nesting box but she knows if she does they will probably abandon the egg and kill the baby. So camera is at the ready for the big day when it fledged or is old enough to be peeked at.
So there you have it the best kept secret on the finca, well I know the others knew but hey we are humans after all. There is a lot of treat shopping going on these women stick together at times like this. Sunflower seeds, millet, extra special seed loads of water for when BMX takes a break from sitting and the fire is on just incase it gets really cold during the day. Can’t have BMX or her egg getting cold….. All I can say is wait till they/it hatches CK you stand NO chance and will have no peace so make the most of it.
Boris is keeping an up to date report going and we have had several visitors to the FFZ chatting to the CK and BMX when she comes out to feed. My wife had to take the tree lights down as they were using them as perches when they visited. Told you, these birds may be wild but they are canny.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged birding, BMX bikes, catalunia, farming, forestry, history, olive oil, sailing, vineyards, weather, wildlife, wine | Leave a Comment »
Here They Go Again!!!
The last time I gave you an update on these two they were finding out exactly what else they could chew their way through to escape. Well they found what they were looking for – the plastic catches on the main door! I didn’t notice at first it was Michael who saw them in the act. They had taken one each and would cling to the bars whilst chewing at the plastic catches. So it was no surprise to me when the other morning I noticed the large door was slightly ajar, on further inspection I discovered why. The clips had not only been chewed through but completely broken and it was by a thread the last one was holding the door shut. If you take a close look at this picture you will see there are two clips at the top (bottom when its shut) of the open door, it is these that no longer exist.
This is their cage, as you can see it’s nice and big so there is plenty of room for them to fly about in. What else could I do but let them out into the fly free zone to fly around whilst we tried to fix catches. The answer was supplied by clothes pegs. Now in theory they should have worked, in practice? not a chance in hell.
We found this out when Michael fixed the door open with two pegs then ‘Big X and The Cooler King’ flew around landing on the pillar tops and chewing at the beams.
They then decided that the plants looked good for having a go at, but I shooed them off as I didn’t know if they were safe to be pecked at, plus I didn’t want them damaged. However, the bay tree seemed safe but true to form when I didn’t shoo them off they didn’t want to play. Eventually they got hungry and returned to their cage so I closed the door and secured it with the pegs. Now the intention was that when we went to town Michael would be able to get a couple of ‘bird proof’ clips. Not with these two!
When we went to bring them indoors they had managed to destroy one of the pegs, not only was it broken but the wood was completely destroyed. So Michael took the spring from the peg and fixed it to the door so they couldn’t open it one side and pegged the other. The response from the boys was to retire into their nesting box and sulk. It didn’t take them long to destroy the other peg so I took the spring off that and fixed to the other side of the door and now that way of escape is blocked. We can hear scratching noises coming from their box, as I have said to Michael they can make a hole in it but they needn’t come tweeting to me when they fall through it.
Now Michael had school so that evening so after we had brought them inside we got the wood in, made sure the fire was banked down so the house (they) would be nice and warm when we came home, shut the shutters, locked up and off we went. When we returned around 9pm after having dinner out, they set up a real squawking because we had turned the lights on…talk about cheeky.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged birds, books, budgies, farming, forestry, gardening, parakeets, wildlife, wine | Leave a Comment »
Olives and Sam’s Garden
For those of you who don’t know this is Sam. He was the little Black Redstart who followed me around the garden and played hide and seek in the tree. We found him laying dead on the gravel one afternoon when we returned from petanca, to say it broke my heart was an understatement. This little chap had provided me with hours of fun and Michael was fascinated by the antics of this little wild bird. So I decided that I would re-do the center and surround of the olive tree next to the house and call it Sam’s Garden in his memory.
To begin with I thought to leave the tree garden as it was but viewing it in flower last spring I decided that it needed some filling and just a little tweaking, so here’s what I’ve done.
These two photos are the ‘before’ ones showing the garden before I got going. As you can see the tree is very old and divided into three parts. The front two face the house with the third trunk facing the drive. Now unfortunately olive trees grow lots of shoots which have to be cut off and these are no exception, so snipers in hand I got stuck in. Whilst I was at it I rebuilt the small wall at the base of the little slope then made another at the top forming a small area that I can grow Nasturtiums in and let them tumble-down naturally.
Then I turned my attention to the front part. This faces the rose garden, and what a surprise I had, there poking their heads out were two snowdrops. Now when I dug up the lilies which were taking over – only the small clump remains – I found lots of small bulbs in them but didn’t know what they were so I simply replanted them and hoped they would grow. I had originally planted snowdrops and crocus Michael had bought me but only saw a few crocus appear. Now I know why so am hoping for a small show next spring.
These two photos show the ‘after’ look. In the first one you can see the small wall at the bottom of the slope and the new one at the top. The clump of leaves in the centre are wild Grape Hyacinths, these grow everywhere and I am constantly digging them up and re-planting them. The second photo shows the drive side and the clump of wild asparagus I found.
Last year Michael decided that the trunks near the house would look good shaped like saucers and we could leave the back trunk for the birds to play in, so saw in hand he set too. The result is quite good and as it grows we can shape it into shade cover for the bird bath and strawberry patch.
Ok take a look at this. This my gardening friends is Wild Asparagus. It grows around the olive trees and in the forest, so I have cut it back to ensure it produces the tender slim shoots that taste heavenly and make a really tasty omelet. I shall be wandering round the fields snipers in hand cutting back any I find to ensure we have a good supply. The season only lasts for a short while but mmmmmmm worth work.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged birds, cafes, flowers, food, forestry, London, olive oil, olive trees, sailing | Leave a Comment »
What You Doing?
Actually young man I am trying to ‘cat proof’ my flower/bulb beds. After your last visit I decided to take advice from various people who know and re did the Hexagon planter planted it up with gladioli then covered it with stones. This I have been told would do two things, firstly deter you and secondly help keep the ground moist during summer.
So I shall be collecting small stones to place along the lines of gladie’s and lilies in the back garden, then I also covered part of the main bed with them in the hope this really works. As this is a work in progress I shall save up the pictures and tell the whole story later, don’t hold your breath though this is a ‘can’t be rushed’ thing, but it’s getting there. I also bought some Hebes which I have planted behind the Hexagon. Here I cleared the ground, placed plastic over the area covered it with sand then earth and planted the Hebes in an arc. Unfortunately we had a rain storm and the rush of water from the fields not only brought loads of earth with it but washed away a bit of the plastic around the last two plants. But all is sorted, once we realized what had happened Michael re-laid that covered it with earth and watered them in.
Now to the Lillie garden. This is how it looked after the hot summer, loads of weeds and a stone wall that was a disgrace, so it was my priority. The first thing I had to consider was the water pipe. This runs from the large cisterna behind the house into the header tank, it also takes the overflow from the tank down into that cisterna – when it rains – so I couldn’t cement it in. What to do? well I cleared all the weeds then looked at the Lilies to see where they came into contact with it. This done I next removed all the stones from that horrid ‘wall’ and started again. This time I concentrated on the plants and pipe together. The first thing I did was build up the end wall near the step, clearing things as I went, I moved along tidying it up. Next I cemented it all together added topping stones job done. Where the pipe ran through the bed I used the violets (which had self-seeded) next to it as part of the cover then covered the exposed bits with stones. This made a small narrow garden at the front into which I planted some baby bulbs so whatever comes up will be a nice surprise. The metal support you see in the top used to hold a water pipe until the new cisterna was built. Michael had secured it in place so well we couldn’t get it out, so it has Sweetpeas planted round it which are growing and hopefully they will cover it but I have other things that can climb if not.
This is the Mint garden that runs from the Lillie bed down to the cisterna. Again this was full of weeds and looking rather shoddy compared to the Sage bush on the other side of the water duct. This was a little bit easier to sort out, once weeded and cleaned up I just covered the ground with stones, cemented the edge, filled in various holes. You will notice a small patch at the end of the bed this is part of the path leading up to the fields one day it will be concreted over just here so this is still a work in progress.
This Is Horace
I found him hiding in the tomato grow bag one year not very amused when I disturbed him. I have seen him around the garden on the days when the sun is out so glad he’s ok. He and the others that live here have often flummoxed me as there is no water up here, no pond, nada. So where does he go? where does he and the others – there are smaller ones – live? We hear them on a spring or autumn evening, croaking away but although like the bats, we see them where they go in summer for coolness we’ve no idea. Ah well it is and will remain one of the forests mysteries.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged drainage, frogs. bats, garden plants, gardening, heavy rain, horticulture, Kew Gardens, large yellow toads, rocks, weather | Leave a Comment »
Well 2015 is closing fast only a few hours to go then a new year begins, strange how it happens every 12 months…. But seriously I would like to wish everyone a Healthy, Peaceful and Happy New Year.
Christmas in the Forest
Ok now for some serious stuff. This little chap as you will know is a white Wallaby and looking cold even though he’s been around for several years. “been around” brings me to the Big Cat…. IT’s BACK!!!! not our small wild one but, we think the Lynx. We heard it last night when we were turning off the generator, Michael thought it was a large Boar out there but boars don’t make deep growly grumbling noises. So this morning we got the camera in and took a look but all it had on it was the car going and coming and an old boy walking up the drive.
Up here at night you develop a sense of something being around be it humans or wildlife, and for the past few nights we have felt a ‘presence’ now we know what it is. So I no longer have to creep forward towards the generator shed torch in hand in the hope of seeing the wild boar, they’re not here and we now know why.
This cat arrives every so often when weather conditions are strange he didn’t come last year but it has been so dry this year (we have had one real storm). It is possible that the river has become a watering hole and possible hunting ground, and could explain why we haven’t seen any boar around recently just foot prints on the track, but if we are lucky 2016 could give us a sighting – the hunt is on!
Well what can I say, last spring it was sort of wet but nothing like normal. The summer was very hot with no storms, and now it’s foggy, damp and misty. This is a picture of the valley around midday, if the sun comes out its only for a short while but you have to admit it turns the landscape into a Japanese look a like. This is not normal though, there has been a lot of mist along the Ebro Valley which runs from up near Santander right down to the Med. We have also seen tremendous flooding and wild fires along its route which is not comforting. Even now there are wild fires up north, but we think they have been started deliberately.
Another addition to the farm are these two ‘erberts. They are a constant source of amusement and provide a calming effect after a stressful day (which can and does happen on a farm). They are still squabbling over bits of wood, paper and anything else that one has and the other one wants. Even after buying them a larger cage which can be wheeled about they have escaped and are currently trying to dig a hole in their nesting box. As I told them you do that and you will fall through the floor, waste of time one just looks at me while the other keeps pecking at the wood. Some people keep cats or dogs, us we keep a pair of noisy escapees.
Well this is an ever-changing environment. Ideas come and go – mostly go – because I start off with wanting to put something in one place then when Michael and I start it evolves into either something different but almost what we planned or we don’t like the look of it and start over again. So a very brief update. The tyre garden has been finished and planted up with bulbs, what was going to be a new bird bath is now a new bulb planter (the gang and Michael didn’t like the look of it) so change of plans. Round behind the house we have started landscaping a small area making stone beds planting bulbs (because they don’t need much water in summer) and paving the washing line area. Walls are being built to stop the water – when it rains – from washing earth down onto the patio and the garden away. The tree garden is still being done having trouble with the water tank for the bird bath but that’s nothing. most everything else is normal winter work. I shall be posting a proper garden blog when and as things are finished.
Its been a bit of a roller coaster year with my health. I can say that the medical people over here are looking after me very well. My Blood Pressure still goes up and down but I am being monitored regularly. They are keeping a watch on the prostrate and kidney, but apart from getting a little tired now and then I am fine. Our first holiday in years set me up for the year and was a real treat, something I had always wanted to do see the Comarque and the white horses. A drive round the corner into the South of France and there they were. Nothing stressful, no airports, ques, trains, strange hotels and the other stuff that went with my twice yearly medical’s before. We could stop as and when we wanted and my wife shared the driving as usual. I still play petanca though not as much and have not been in as many competitions, but I still enjoy my afternoons.
I am now learning Spanish at school twice a week, which helps me and keeps the old brain ticking over. Still writing, I’m on my latest novel set in the middle ages so it’s a lot of interesting research keeps me occupied for a while.
Well that’s about it for 2015, we are meeting friends for drinks tonight but not going for a meal this year. Keep safe everybody see you in the New Year Bon Fiestas.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged 2015, birding, boats, books, cafes, catalunia, farming, fishing, gardening, London, mountains, New Year, sailing, spain, sport, weather, wild animals, wild birds | Leave a Comment »
Well its over for another year, feeling stuffed, tired but relaxed. Knowing that we would be on our own for Christmas friends asked if we would like to meet up at Carpe Diem just as we did 4 years ago. So Boxingday saw us heading out into the Campo in the mountains and a wonderful 5 hours.
Now outside behind the car park live some interesting characters who are obviously used to being photographed so instead of talking I will let them tell the story.
Oh look everyone more humans and a CAMERA!!!! This is my good side.
Dont bother with him I’m the one you should be interested in look at my fine feathers and my leg stance all fashion walkway here ducky…
Well that’s her normal remarks but this is her normal position head in ground I might be smaller but I’m definitely more bird. Oh dear are they being strutty again your obviously here for dinner its cold and misty so I’d go inside if I were you Merry Christmas and enjoy your meal.
So we headed towards the restaurant and found this little chappy one white Wallaby looking decidedly cold. once inside the magic took over, this place never ceases to amaze, enjoy the photos.
This is the large dining area decked out, all tables had candles and large gold coloured plates, napkins and crackers. We arrived early which surprised us as it was very very foggy and getting cold outside. Michael wanted a picture with the large tree, he looks rather military but once dinner was under way he relaxed.
Then we were in for a surprise who should walk through the door but authoress Rosie Reay with her two boys. It’s a long time since we had seen her and she looked good. She has lost weight, had her hair styled and Michael just did not recognised her. Needless to say we were pleased to see her and caught up later before they left.
So we headed home in the fog calling at the garage to get petrol for the generators. We really enjoyed our dinner good company, good wine so as it was said here’s to the next time in 4 years…… Happy New Year everybody
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
Posted in About my writing, Forest Life, Our Life | Tagged bird, christmas, farming, fog, food, London, mountains, restaurants, roads, vineyards, weather | Leave a Comment »