The last of the very cold weather might be behind us for this year. It was raining when I woke up, but I didn't mind that, because I was expecting rain, and with the rain came the warmer airflow. It's not forecast to flip back to cold conditions in the next two or three weeks, and after that we'll be into March, and while frosts are still a possibility, we shouldn't get another hard spell when the thermometer hovers around freezing all day and dips below it at night. Nothing of course is certain, except death, as they say, and taxes, but from now on I won't be holding back from pruning the bay, the overgrown Cryptomeria, and any other marginally tender or evergreen subjects I've been refraining from touching.
If we have indeed seen the worst of the winter for this year then the planting in the gravel garden has come off pretty lightly. There are some frosted branches on the Phlomis italica, but there were last year, and it produced plenty of new growth come the spring. The olive is unscathed, and the two myrtles, and tender form of Teucrium fruticans. The lemon verbena looks quite dead, but it always does at this time of year, and I'm sure that it's poised to perform its annual act of resurrection. The birds think that spring is coming. The long-tailed tits seem to have started to pair off, whereas in winter they charge around the garden in a great gang.
Since it was raining I thought I might as well go to the bank to pay in one stray membership cheque that the beekeepers membership secretary passed to me before going on holiday. She normally pays them into the bank herself, for which I'm very grateful, since I don't generally go anywhere near a bank from one month to the next, and am with a different bank to the beekeepers anyway. Eventually I suppose we will all be paying our subscriptions by electronic bank transfer, or PayPal, or using our mobiles, but beekeepers are a gently conservative lot, and while the technology sections of the broadsheets keep running articles about modern and alternative payment methods, they don't seem to have much traction in the real world in north Essex.
I went to Brightlingsea, since it has a branch of the bank the beekeepers use, and parking is free and closer to the bank than it is in Colchester. While I was there I visited the Brightlingsea superstore, as it is signposted from the main (and only) road into Brightlingsea, which is a reasonably large and fairly new Co-op approximately one twentieth of the size of the new Sainsbury superstore at Stanway. That shows what a useful anchor for shops in a small town a bank branch still is. If I'd had to go into Colchester to pay in the cheque I'd just have done my shopping at my usual Tesco on the way home. Brightlingsea High Street has a knitting and sewing shop, and I went in and would have bought some black button thread, but the only assistant was taken up with some complicated enquiry involving knitting wool and dye batch numbers, which looked as though it was going to take longer to resolve than I wanted to spend buying button thread. Another time.
We are not celebrating Valentines Day. The Systems Administrator's father died on 14 February in our first year at university, so our initial Valentines Day after getting together would have been the second anniversary of the SA's father's death, and hearts and flowers didn't seem appropriate. Celebrating Valentines is a ritual that, if you haven't started while in the first flush of romance, you are unlikely to take up when your thirtieth wedding anniversary is just over the horizon. Anyway, I'm going to a beekeepers' committee meeting. I have made the SA a ham, leek and mushroom pie and peeled some potatoes, as a quasi-romantic and charitable gesture so that the SA won't have to cook. Originally I was just going to buy something in the Brightlingsea Co-op, then it occurred to me that since I was making cheese straws for the refreshments after tomorrow night's lecture, I could use some of the pastry to make a pie top.