Monday, December 28, 2009

First commission - A Country Garden

A seasonal visit to friends elicited a new commission to help them make more of their beautifully aspected country garden. Keen gardeners with the usual family and work demands on their time low-ish maintenance is high on the list.

Measuring up in the -4 degrees sunny winter weather was a challenge and in fact took two attempts. 'Frozen finger breaks' being a new aspect of surveying for me!

With wonderful rural views from almost all angles, a majority south east facing plot and fabulous soil, a complex network of roofline and extensions and several unusual mature trees to be retained it will be a pleasurable challenge.

From commission

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hard Landscape Portfolio - beginnings

I have avoided this Hard Landscape Portfolio task because it is my weakest area. In that what I know about building and construction could fit on half a postage stamp. 200 hrs D says. I think that is optimistic, maybe it will turn out not to be.

The project consists of several parts and will train several core skills. Vectorworks familiarity. Understanding of the construction of out design elements: wall, pergola, decks and so on. Beginnings of familiarity with standard sizes and dimensions of materials e.g planks of wood (sorry timber!), breeze blocks, the humble brick and mortar.

Creativity in the original design of several garden objects, 12 to be precise. In total it's about 50 constructions drawings. If Vectorworks can be tamed that becomes MUCH less daunting, but that's a big IF

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Trentham in Winter

Trentham Estate gardens are a recently restored treasure (2003-2008) with the formal Italian garden plantings being designed by Tom Stuart Smith. In the regenerated formal gardens the planting reflects prairie style so a mix of ornate traditional structure with stunningly modern planting. Apparently they planted 73,000 plants and then there are the spring bulbs. A year round garden? well certainly a 3 season garden.

From Collages

The cold crisp winter day made the most of the structure given by the tall plantings and evergreens. Stunning displays with 'Death' in all it's glory.

And of course the perfect weather and location to play with the new Nikon Lens

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is it snowing where you are?

From Collages

It started with sleet on Monday night and temps dropped and snow began and melted and began again and melted and now there is a crust of black ice and crunchy snow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Project 2 the post

For some reason this project (project 2) seemed a lot more difficult than the first one. I don't think I learned as much as during the first one but I certainly found a great print supplier locally, managed to navigate Vectorworks to some degree, and enjoyed the rendering aspect more, especially with the new chartpak colours I added last week. But there is so much more to do to develop my 'style' and a confidence with the presentation side of the plans.

I have some time allocated to re-draw the whole thing in Vectorworks, from scratch, I'll need it for the planting plans next term but it is also a good exercise to get ready for project 3 and begin the process of working out what an efficient method of working is, because 5.5 days from go to woe is NOT efficient and that's not taking into account design time.

I'd post examples but I was in such a hurry to get to the post office in the snow storm I forgot to take pics, let's hope postie doesn't lose them! I am off to make gingerbread tree decs and finish xmas cards in time for last post tomorrow. As Alex says, who said this course was easy!

Just as a record, 4 of the 5 sheets, unrendered:

From Collages

From Collages

From Collages

From Collages

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sucess and failure are either side of the same coin!

After a frantic few days I am finally feeling like the deadline of Friday is meetable. With help from Vectorworks whizz OH and technical collaboration with LM, not to mention the man from Brother who sorted out the A3 scanner only scanning at A4 (go figure) I am now on track to complete, more or less (!) in time to deliver the 4 A1 sheets of design work for project 2.

A jaunt south to hand deliver is still looking likely though.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Could you do this in 12 weeks?

A parody I suppose on D's posting could you do this in 8 weeks for our first project. But a mere 4 weeks later and project 2 is in the final stages, i.e. head down panic week to get it all tarted up and ready for submission to D, by close of Friday. The real client will see it at the annual summer show and hopefully chose a design to implement.

Ground plan done and 3d block model done and tweaked. The process is fairly integral in the final stages back and forth between plan and model. Attention to detail is easier to see in the model than on the plan, i.e. forgetting to put in the oil tank or a wall to block it from the road was easily missed on the plan not so the block model. Sketch up continues to be a delight if a bit flaky.

From 2009-12-08 1

3D model

From 2009-12-08 1

Plan draft

Vectorworks is in the wings for the Site Analysis and Functional bubble diagram sheet.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Planting style comparisons

The Plantswoman gave us another lecture yesterday on Planting Style Comparisons. A difficult window as we had our xmas party the night before. But all were present if somewhat weary.

I have to admit to being completely glued to this topic. It is my favorite section, I would do it all day everyday if it was possible. Introducing top designers such as Tom Stuart Smith , Arne Maynard, Dan Pearson and Anthony Paul with a synopsis of their styles, plant favorites and more glorious images of their work to inspire us to greater things. Their extensive horticultural, historical/conservation design, show garden and landscape design credentials are a little daunting to a late starter but then I am trying to be the best I can be which means starting from where I am and not longing to have started several decades ago!

More pointers to gardens to visit this winter ( for our soft landscape portfolio inages) including a new installation at Battersea Park- Winter Garden and possibly The Savill again. Next weekend though it's Trentham Gardens and a site survey of a friends garden.

Is this possible?

It's not that I don't want to blog, it's more that it is all a bit too much atm.

Each lecture session is packed with information but only scratching the surface of the topic to which we need to do further research and study. But then there is no time for this it seems as we move quickly onto the next topic.

I started garden design to get away from the pressure of consulting - i.e. no life, no time, no joy, no fun, lots of money. It's not exactly turning out like this atm. I am standing close to the bottom of a precipitously steep learning curve and my peers stand either in front or near me on this curve. The deadlines loom impossibly fast and I sense that a lot of what I am producing is maybe a bit rushed and less considered and creative than it might be. I suppose I understand why it must be like this and that the course must teach us all these things in this timescale but today it is all a tad overwhelming.

..... and honestly, I am thinking about subbing out a few things to an Indian VA per Tim Ferris' outline for working smarter (4 Hour Work Week), don't tell teach!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Are you this creative?

"Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre are the co-founders of Ecovative Design, a company that builds a completely organic and natural Styrofoam replacement. In non-scientific terms, they grind up seed husks and glue the small pieces together with the mushroom root, yielding a product that’s natural and completely compostable. Unlike other sustainable inventions, like ethanol, their product doesn’t come from anything humans or animals can consume, so their materials are available in abundance."
CNN Young People Who Rock Blog 7th Dec 20009

When I hear young people, or any people for that matter, say " I can't make a difference (to the positive ecology of this planet) on my own" I think about people like this and say "YES, YOU CAN!"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How big is your carbon footprint?

All this talk of environmental impact earlier in the week has had me scouting the web for info and assessing my own 'size nines' environmentally speaking that is (7's in human shoes ;) ).

I am a designer and as such am beginning to build a source book of environmentally sounds suppliers and products, it's hard (all suggestions welcome).

It is naive to think there will be no impact or that it will always be possible to avoid less sound products. In my first design career (graphics), some moons ago, I did refuse to work on a BAE account for ethical reasons, but is it realistic to imagine I have that luxury now, as a self employed garden designer?

It strikes me that putting my money where my mouth is is a good start and so evaluating my own carbon impact is where I am starting.

The Government has ACTONCO2, a page to help me as an individual lower my contribution to polluting the world. I am already an obsessive light turn-er off-er and the heating is on so little and so low it often might as well not be on ( is this a false economy?) I attempt to grow some of my own veg/fruit, try not to print what I can read online, shred and compost most private papers, compost food waste, recycle with the council scheme, paper, cardboard and plastic, recycle with Tesco glass and clothing. I sell whatever I can or give away what is left. The local dump, sorry recycling center, gets only the items that I simply cannot find a home for. I visit maybe once every two years! Then there is showering not bathing, walking to town because I live close. The car is room for improvement.

But maybe that's not enough?

I could green my business too according to Although this is mostly the same as Greening my home

Then of I get into the realms of those who begin to assess natural products - somehow always assumed to be 'better' - with impact of producing all products AND what happens at the end of their life. They call it Eco Design. Not convinced yet, but still investigating....

More to come

Friday, December 4, 2009

Being more Webby - The Milky Way

An excellent master class this evening by Eslpeth Briscoe aka Milky. Focusing on being more web savvy in promoting ourselves and getting up those ranks in Google and so building our network and optimising our assets (that would be web presence!)

A good turn out of people from this year and the last few graduating years and a real mixture of knowledge levels all addressed and enabled a bit more.

I came home a bought a couple more domain names to add to the growing list and then began adding some more links to the blog and even pondered re-url-ing this blog to make it more searchable. That may have to wait until the weekend.

A vid and notes to follow on the OCGD blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Virtual World of communicating

I had just had an interesting email 'chat' with a well known Garden Photographer. Her website wouldn't show me the images it promised to hold and suspecting it was some browser issue I emailed to let her know.

At first she explained the complicated hover and scroll set up her designer had come up with to let the viewer navigate more than 3 of her beautiful images. Sounds cool but it probably isn't for anyone but him or others who like geeky gadgets on websites and have the time to play with them.

I let her know that it still wouldn't work on my Firefox install. Now the reply was simple, but in this world of virtual comms what you say, don't say, and how you say it carries a wealth of meaning that conveys your 'tone'. And the tone???... sharp, irritated and not too polite.

Interesting as had I been a buyer, as I may have been in the future, I got a good idea of how short this professionals fuse is and how she may potentially behave in front of clients.

I love her work, but I would think more than twice about putting her forward for work.

So it is another lesson for me to be careful how I communicate virtually and the virtual tone I use with strangers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Modified Diagonals

Teach says modify the diagonals after some heavy hints I find the notes in the course materials. Spent the afternoon fighting with modifying the diagonals, then my niece called and asked me to edit her CV and job applications for investment banks...MUCH simpler. Did that for an hour, fixed my printer, well half fixed and then went back to the diagonals.

D said this will be bread and butter client work which means it needs to take MUCH less time and to be MUCH more creative. I need more practice at this then. Have organized to design a friends garden over xmas which is similar in that the house sits in a large plot, very rural, awkward green spaces. It'll be excellent practice.

Better get back to modifying diagonals without losing the plot totally!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Project 2 - (draft) design 2

Well the 45 degree angle is pleasing the design still has a way to go but I like it in principle.


Sketch Up.... sharing the joy

A great friend has asked me to 'teach her' the basics of sketch up. She is already an accomplished garden designer so I am delighted to share the joys of it with her.

Well at least show her all the fabulous short cuts I have been able to glean and work with.

Sharing the joy could be fun!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Hedge laying got booted as an idea for these folks..ho hum.

We had some lively debate about the location of the veg plot including one wild suggestion that it could be located at a local allotment instead of in the garden. The design purists amongst the group nodded sagely, the rest of us smiled in hesitant disbelief. Design snobbery gone a little mad methinks!?!

I am also a little unsure that a statement, that fruit bushes will in fact grow in full shade, takes into account that they may well grow but imhe the don't give much sweet juicy fruit to speak of, without the old sunlight factor. I am sure someone will point out a cultivar or two that will perform in full shade.

After scouring a couple of John Brookes garden design books I am moving onto a 45 degree angle grid option to see if I can make something more interesting leap off the page. So far not so bad.

Am also planning on a spot of importing on the reference book front having been scared at the cost of the Vectorworks 2010 training manual. I have located it in the USA - NNA Training Guides for £20 less than a discounted UK price...good old exchange rate is back at 1.6 :)

Unhappily the exhaust sheered of the car on the way home so I am car-less for a wee while, not so good!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Project 2

Only 9 1/2 weeks in and struggling again with applying the 'rules'. The rules I can't make work for this one are Base Shape integrity and not having a 'droop' at the end of my pattern analysis. As you can see from an earlier post the house is off centre of the plot with a garden space to the side. Which reminds me I haven't got to grips with the side and front spaces of the house either. Maybe I missed the bit of the lecture when that was covered.

I have ideas about 'decoration' but frankly that is not going to cut it in tomorrows crit...maybe I should aim for a Friday Crit :)

This is one of them to deal with an escaping dog and encourage more wildlife into the garden.

Am beginning to wonder if attempting this in 1 yr was completely mad! Although the 3 yr option was never going to happen... so best just get on with it and hope for inspiration and clarity along the line

Blog Edits

This blog has been edited today and some posts removed, some updated, some placeholder posts written in their entirety.

Please forgive the lateness of the edits.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Instead of getting on with homework I spent this morning filtering and editing some shots to enter into IGPOTY. As D said "you have to be in it to win it!".

So at 9 days 32 hours and 37 minutes to go before the deadline I uploaded my 8 offerings and am 'in it'. And, although I am proud of the shots, given the competition (!) am not that expectant of getting anywhere.

Fingers x'd

From Collages

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Pool Man

This has been a busy and demanding week for all sorts of reasons and lack of sleep hasn't helped the gaff, so the idea of a whole day of 'pond talk' was a tough one. Staying vertical and open eyed, let alone attentive was going to be a challenge.

The Pool man in questioned turned out to be Martin Kelly from Fairwater who has been in the business for 30 yrs+ and trained with Anthony Archer-Wills. Not someone I have heard of but then this learning curve is steep and the research hardly begun!

At break neck speed he took us through the basics of: fountains, pools with chemicals (no plants, no fish), ponds (plants and fish but no chemicals), lakes (big ponds with bank eroding waves), natural swimming pools(eco swimming holes and jolly cold in the UK), reed beds (eco & almost free cleaning systems for ponds and pools), construction materials (75mm neoprene anyone?) some construction do's and don'ts (!), pumps and more.

Hardly had time to blink let alone sleep. So enthused is he about his subject that lunch break (1pm) arrived in no time and the end of class (3.30pm) just after that.
Great images of his work went along with plenty of entertaining anecdotal evidence to back up theories and practices.

It is always great to listen to an expert who clearly enjoys their work and of course who has a depth of knowledge and experience to answer detailed and sometimes unexpected questions.

D was recording him for the distance learning course that OCGD is planning to offer soon and of course for us to listen to again and extract all the detail we missed first time round.

I left knowing that whilst using a firm like this will add to a budget, that the expense will be well worth it!

Building begins

We had our first set of lectures on the nitty gritty of building and plans for contractors. Led by the John Heather, who is also Dad of the principal!. We went methodically through site survey requirements and level taking and recording. It reminds me again that this business is likely to be as much about good and clear communication with all parties as it is about good design. It also reinforces how much we will rely on good contractors to implement.

In the afternoon we headed off for the picturesque village in which the house for our second design project is located. Levels was the order of the day and after splitting into small groups we went through the main types of level measuring kit. A theodolite & rod (traditional level, a laser level and zip level. We all of course thoroughly agreed that the zip level was by far the best option for a level should we buy one (£750 smackers!)

Taking the site survey in a small group was good fun and much more organised. I was impressed with the neat and accurate drawings of my team mates and am resolved to practice making mine better before the course is up. Having only one set of figures was not ideal but we're learning, project 3 will no doubt be perfect!

It took about an hour and a half to get the first set of rudimentary 3D models done in Sketch Up. Getting faster all the time

From My Pictures

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vectorworks 2010 Training days

2 very intense days of VectorWorks training with Tamsin Slatter of Vectorworks Training. FANTASTIC.

This is the first time I have used a CAD type package, well Sketch Up I suppose but this is really in a different league (as promised by TS!). Learning the whole thing from scratch is always daunting but it was a fascinating tour through the basics and a good level of repetition and trawling through functionality.

I feel fortunate to be in a group with 3 CAD experts, 2 interior designers and a Landscaper all of whom brought clarity to various elements, be it explanations of functions in AutoCAD through to the basics of real life wall building (a 101 for dummies like me!). Being with a group who are much better at something than I am makes me take a step up and try and match them. I love that!

TS sailed us through the exercises and knowledge with aplomb, not in the least phased by the vargaries of hardware, user foibles, OS's or anything else for that matter. She even helped me change my memory cards (from in record time. I am now loving he double speed action of my new 4gb RAM.

Exhausting all this learning but very satisfying, now for the 30 mins a day to build the real foundations to work from.

And of course saving pennies for that iMac with 27" screen... totally green with envy over that

Monday, November 16, 2009

Timeline 18th thru 20th Century

Not due quite yet but given the next weeks are chokker with more design work we have been advised to complete this piece of work this week.

It's been fun and interesting to complete. There have been some eye openers for me too, who knew it took Rodin so long to complete the Gates of Hell or that he was still working when Picasso was in his Blue period. Or that so many fabulous works of art were done in 1937 (Picasso, Nicholson, Dali and more all producing) That the 20th Century had almost 1 war, or more, a decade, that Gertude Jekyll's gardens are listed no-where on the net - books maybe but not on the net - or that so much of what we consider 'modern' now was actually being done in the 20's, 30's and 40's by visionary artists and designers. I have even begun a 21st century set to see what I would chose for this first decade in categories, Garden, Art, Architecture and Socio economic. A tough one.

Main text initially was Landscape of Man but after wading through the 18th Century I gave up. Jellicoe may be a landscape visionary but in the art of effective communication he is not.

18th Century
From 2009-11-16

19th Century
From 2009-11-16

From 2009-11-16

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vectorworks 2010 downloaded...FINALLY

After about 2 weeks of faffing about I have finally downloaded and installed the treasured package Vectorworks 2010.

Upon opening it it has decided to ask for more updates to be installed. Oh PLEASE!

After all that palaver, you think I am going to risk losing it with updates and file name changes and re-activations... I don't think so!

Also feeling a little smug about extending my Windows partition. I know small potatoes to most techies but a first for me. Gotta love Ubuntu Live CD - 8.10 Intrepid Ibex from which I resized... Windows itself makes the resize much harder.

Back to the Garden History timeline...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Project 1 presentations

Not a great day tbh.

I was really pleased with the learning curve achievements last night and in fact right up to presentation was in a relatively good space.

Coming pretty low down in the alphabetical running order is good and bad, the 'client' has heard it all before, you're beginning to sound like a cracked record but it's time find something new to entice them. That comes across like a form of desperation. And the client is trying to find new things to say that haven't been said already to other students. On the upside you've heard all the feedback for others and can tailor your own presentation accordingly.

The feedback, from all came in the form of 3d models too small and badly rendered, elevations ok but not great and 'your bubble diagram looks like hieroglyphics' (I think that's supposed to be a complement!). I feel like a complete re-draw is what I have to do and have absolutely no desire to do it. I feel like I gave it my best shot and failed.

CK asked where I thought I'd come marks wise 'low to middle' was the answer. Right now I feel like I'll be lucky to pass this one. 4 days of solid slog and I have to ask was it worth it?

Sure I'll pick up tomorrow, get back on the horse and try again, identify areas which needs work - all of them given the feedback - and practice practice practice... Instead of seeing and appreciating the hurdles I have overcome this week and the steps forward I have taken I am deflated and disappointed.

I should say there were some awesome and inspiring solutions and presentations. People often surprise you and today was no exception.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deadline frenzy

This week is our first deadline for our Post Grad Dip at Oxford College of Garden Design. A full set of drawings for the first design project to be handed in after presenting them to the client. Thursday is the day. Preparation is exciting and exhausting.

As with anything there are hiccups first time out and this exercise is no exception. Lack of supplies, supplies failing to work as described, realising you're missing some of the key facts, realising one half day session is not enough to make a drawing exercise easy and so on. BUT during this steep learning curve, I have learnt, been creative when things fail, listened to peers who have better skills or simply there to provide an ear. I am thrilled to be at a point, on Tuesday pm, when I have the bulk of the work done and the fun bit, well the bits I find easier, to come.

Architectural Blank 1 - Bubble diagram
From 2009_11_10

Architectural blank 2 - sketch plans and 3d models (SketchUp7)
From 2009_11_10

Architectural blank 3 - Planting plan, elevations and 1 point perspective drawing.
From 2009_11_10

2 mood boards and some rendering to come. This is a really pleasing accomplishment :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tate Modern

A day at the Tate modern was on the agenda today.

Loud groan and eye rolling from inner art student.

CK and I pitched up fractionally late but in time to hear the basics about searching out form and shape and finding the inspiration of the piece, or maybe the last bit was form Sylvia Crowe's boo?, anyway the basic tenet of the day was to be inspired and to see what could be brought into our garden design projects and our HLP project over xmas.

Inner student yawned loudly....BORING.....she shouts. I don't listen.

After fielding coats to the cloakroom, finding loos and grabbing a cuppa we embarked on the 5th floor rooms. Swarms of school children drawing, mooching, discussing and listening flowed around us. Asians snapping happily as they stood next to the 'no camera' signs. I began to sketch, self consciously and hiding my book from anyone who wanted to see what was being scribbled. Never been a big fan of public drawing.

Inner art student nods in agreement.

Gradually as I noted things that inspired me, scribbled shapes and tones along with names and dates, picture refs and titles I began to realise how much inspiration I was gathering from this place. My 1st 4 visits here were to the top floor restau only, not even bothering with the galleries. Shameful!

I saw artists that I know well, Miro, Monet, Braques, Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky and some I have not heard of before but want to see more of. It's not the Musee D'Orsay (I spent A LOT of time there when I lived in Paris) nor the Tate proper but it is great to see modern works of all media and mode.

My favorites of the day were '30 pieces of silver', the stands upon which 4 cubist sculptures sat and a fallen over palm tree covered in clay - go figure. ... and of course Matisse's 'L'Escargot' and Rothko's 'Untitled' and Miro's mobile and and and.....

In the end inner art student had a great day and my sketch book is much fuller than I thought it would be with ideas and collages of ideas and forms of ideas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Full Time and then some

Funny really I thought a full time course would be just that but this Post Grad Dipl in Garden Design at Oxford College of Garden Design is a bit like being back at Graphic Design degree stage. I was the only person amongst school friends with more than about 10hrs a week in class. We had class 9-6, Mon to Fri and then of course there was homework too. OCGD is a bit like that, only 2 days a week in class but I seem to spend ALL of the rest of my time working on projects, that's a 'no weekends off' policy :).

Right now I have a set of designs, elevations, 3D model, mood boards to finish for next Friday, for this I also have to find and learn to use Transtext, a 3 x A3 page pictorial timeline (120 images and text) for Dec 10, I have to think up an essay title and write a plan for it, for Dec 15. Before the end of term we have another garden to design and hand in plans - we haven't seen it yet. Then in the 6 week xmas holidays (ho ho ho) we have approx 200 hrs of work to complete a Hard Landscape Portfolio.

Concurrently with this there are gardens to visit, seasonal images to be taken of borders and flowers/plants for the soft landscape portfolio and we need to learn Vector Works (a type of CAD). GULP

I thought it would be knowledge expanding, and it is, I didn't quite realise how time consuming it would be, nor how much planning it would require, nor how obsessive one can become about filling in background info - that would be reading the reading list books I have bought and the magazines I have subscribed to!

I am off to read the entry rules for igpoty Garden Photographer of the Year 2010, got to relax some how

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Silvia Crowe - Garden Design

Found this Dame Sylvia Crowe book lurking in the annals of the town library under 'books no-one reads anymore'.

Took them 10 days to get it from storage. Good job really as the only copy on Amazon is retailing for about £3.5m... no I am not kidding!

Praise to the British library system.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Week VI, already

Busy week this week. Wednesday began with an early start, 04:30, to get over to Oxford in plenty of time for a 09:00 start on the SketchUp training day with Tamsin Slatter. An interesting day and certainly one where I learnt quite a few good short cuts and techniques to improve the existing drawings. Even attempted a spiral stair case successfully!

Thursday and Friday were filled with hand drawing techniques and an introduction to Chartpak Markers. I struggled with perspective drawing technicalities. Jo Chance passed on a good set of techniques but doing it by eye was far more successful for me than all the measuring and planning. No doubt with some practice I can make it work. Thankfully CK sat next to me both days and proved a fount of useful tips - she has taught this particular skill to interior design students for about 13 years apparently!

Rendering, or coloring in, was fun and some of the years of sketching through art A' level and a design degree, came flooding back. I really enjoyed this day, although the scent of acetone had most of us wild eyed and a tad headachey.

From My Pictures

Now I just have to knuckle down and get the UP1 design tweaked and humanly possible to build, re SketchUp'd, Rendered, Elevated and that'll be homework done ready for the next annihilation, sorry crit next week

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SketchUp moves into the realms of fairly do-able

I completed a redraw, from scratch, of my revised design in about 3 hours this afternoon, which I am feeling a little smug about. I layered the hell out of it and it made it so much easier to manage amendments. I might even begin to say I like SKetchUp 7, might even say it's fun to use!

From My Pictures

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Brother MFC - 6490CW only 'speaks' German

Just moments ago I discovered my NEW all singing, all dancing A3 Brother MFC-6490CW printer has all the print settings and help text in German, handy... NOT

Perhaps it is not so all singing and dancing, unless of course you're German speaking GRRRR

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SKetchUp Training

Just completed watching 4 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds of online training. Feels like a great deal more than that and probably is if I include trying out each exercise, even so it feels like MUCH more time than a day (FTE)

Worth it though :)

......I know, I forgot the clocks changed last night so up too early for a Sunday

Friday, October 23, 2009

Orchard Dene Plantswoman

I enjoyed the morning of presentations from Chris Marchant of Orchard Dene nurseries. She's the main reviewer of our soft landscape portfolios so probably someone to impress with our plant knowledge and depth of understanding when it comes to the 'green decorating'.

CM was utterly impressive, Latin plant names rolling off her tongue like a native she whipped through travel snaps of planting combos in far away places, directing us all to observe wherever we go. Which is of course great advice as we build the palette of ideas for future works.

The afternoon was located at the nursery, which was a mare to find for some reason, Daniel took us to the house NOT the nursery which was a mere stones throw away to a local, quite a bit further to a non-local. On arrival the acres of block planting was very exciting for a plant-a-holic like me.

It was great to hear about the running of the commercial nursery, from order taking through to pick and delivery. Then of course the skills required to schedule all the propagating and plant care that they undertake.

From 2009_10_23

A potted version of 'how to soil prep, layout (below) and then plant your planting plan....

From 2009_10_23

and if you can't for some reason then how to ensure your contractor does it right, (ok does it your way!) giving your 'green decorations' the best possible chance to get growing once planted.

From 2009_10_23

Funny to hear comments from CM that completely contradict D's point of view, which he had warned us about, another step in the "listen to the advice and then make you OWN choices"

Fabulous nursery, really glad to have met CM as no doubt she will be invaluable as a resource in the future.


The process of review was different yesterday, much faster, in most cases, and some clear direction. Great to see everyone's worked up designs, and mood boards, so many idea's and some recurring themes.

That said I got off remarkably easy. I wasn't expecting " yeah that works, good ideas" and from both. "Planting needs work" from one and that's the truth!

Actually I was pleased D told me to ditch one part, the green roof. Couldn't let it go with out a push but as he said it I realised it was the best thing to do.

PT brought up the topic of deliverables which are due in 3 weeks (YIKES!) and we now have a clearer but not definitive list of deliverables for the Urban Project 1.

1 point perspective elevation (learning that in next weeks studio session)
a sketch plan
3 SketchUp print outs (B&W?)
The above presented on an architectural blank, which needs some text (transtext) about the brief and solutions

Then a functional diagram (bubble!) and that's it I think, better go check it out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sketch Up Mastered

Well sort of!

4 hours of toil last night produced a credible version of my Design Project 1 garden design.

OK the textures need some work but the block design program does make the 2D plan come to life and I certainly realized a few changes were required as I built it in 3D.

Lets hope 'Teach D' approves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Computer and Cash flow

The crashing of my computer on an almost daily basis is triggering my worries about £££ or the lack thereof. I simply cannot afford to buy a new computer at the moment.

It's actually not the computer that is the issue but the techs who keep screwing up by not finishing the job properly and thus causing further probs and consequent re-vists and more days without the beloved machine.

So far it's been:
- new heat exchanger for the CPU - 2.5 days
- restore to earlier working version when USER ID vanished - 1 day
- 2 days with the machine switching itself off every 15 mins due to fan not working at all.
- re-glueing of HE with proper bond as the glue had melted due to heat in unit (DUH!) - 1 day
- several failed restores, no e-mail

Simply not taking it back to these clowns, ever again.

Have resorted to the internet for a solution which is easier said than done. SketchUp 7 turns out to have some V flaky coding on the in/un-Install coding which may or may not be causing further issues GREAT.

If I manage to make the homework deadline of Thursday I will be pleased.

On the up side my lappy has never been so cool and quiet. The HE obviously is doing it's funky stuff!


RHS Wisley
From 2009-10-19

A dreary day with some drizzle greeted me at RHS Wisely which is just off the M25 south of London. Amazingly the car park was half full. School visits and elderly groups making the most of the Autumn fair.

Wisley has its great formal herbaceous borders edging the large formal pool, maybe that should be mini lake(!). Almost gone over after an early frost last week but still some good colours to be had and bulky plantings full of penstemon, dahlia, geranium, verbenas, agapanthus, canna, helichrysum over the structure of the evergreen hedging behind.

My main focus was to head down to the Oudoulf borders beside the Glasshouse. And, although dead they were stunning. The Fagus sylatica, Hakonechloa macra and Sarcoccoca confusa beds were looking wonderful after a drizzle of rain to gloss them up, even minus the fat white alliums of summer, they remain my favorite planting in Wisely.

The huge arch of grasses, Eupatorium, Euphorbia etc that enclose the lake in front of the glass house showed off how well the collapsed death state can be if done considerately. But no doubt a bold gardener is required to bear this state of decay for very long.

Pleasantly surprised by a few of the Acers doted here and there and the overall hue of golden bronzes and purple reds.

The Savill Garden

The Savill Garden

From 2009-10-19

My first trip to Savill just 3 junctions North from Wisley, indeed I have never heard of it before this week! Fabulous visitor centre and plenty of new planting going on. 35 acres owned by The Crown Estates (in other words the reigning monarch) much woodland and several large heavily planted border areas with a good sized glass house.

Though a mere few miles up the road from Wisley they had clearly had much more severe frosts and the huge dahlia displays were frost burnt, much of the borders are tender, canna, dahlia and so on and were looking quite sad. Borders seem to be in colour palette and I imagine a few weeks ago they were completely spectacular, they were still interesting from a combination point of view and certainly a place to come for the summer section of soft landscape portfolio.

One area that still looked good was the gravel/grasses area, a bit wild and coastal but the grasses looked great against the pale gravels and showed off their spreading techniques.

Again big vista up and down the water courses, plenty of Autumn colour. Bit pricey ast £7.50 and not part of the RHS scheme.

Grasses Grasses everywhere.....

Knoll Gardens

From 2009-10-19

A & S visited Knoll in the summer and raved, simply RAVED about the grass plantings, the Roy Lancaster put it in his Top 10 for Autumn in October 2009 Gardens Illustrated so it was really getting into the psyche. With Sunday predicted to be a 'good' day and at least 2 more Autumn garden border sets required for the soft landscape portfolio driving the 7 hour round trip became feasible! A little crazy, but feasible. I picked up AL, almost en route, and we headed down in early morning sunshine for the Dorset countryside.

Neil Lucas' garden turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be a mere 4 acres. That said it is packed to bursting with grasses and stunning views into the garden and borrowed landscapes.

Autumn is the perfect time to see it with many of the grasses producing fluffy seed heads from the fronds of flowers, a light wind and some afternoon sun helped with the dappling light qualities so desired in plant photographers, at least by me!

It was certainly a lesson in how many and how similar grasses can be, Miscanthus up to this point had been a group fo 4 or 5 plants for me, ha ha ha there were so many in this garden all similar-ish and all different species or variety. Making notes on plant names and image numbers became much more important than usual!

There is a charming set of waterfalls in a far corner, planted with wetland and rockery plants below it, behind a large conifer hedge, is a formal grass and sculpture garden bordered on one side by a tall wisteria covered arch. Sitting down for a moment at the top of the waterfall pools the sun burst from behind the clouds and the view down across the ponds, through the formal gardens and beyond opened up. It shouldn't work this juxtaposition of styles and plantings, but it does and it makes it feel much bigger than 4 acres.

I enjoyed hearing the plant sales team telling a customer how to prune the grasses she had just bought.
"Take it down in spring, to the ground" she said, the customer looked a little dubious and her colleague chirped in
"we do it with a hedge trimmer actually, takes no time at all!"

The customer laughed, having just spent several hundred pounds she was certainly NOT taking a hedge trimmer to them, no way!

Planting planning

D said very early on no knowledge of plants in required for this course, it is not about horticulture and I begin to see how on could be a garden designer and Not know a thing about plants.

The basic principles are that there a 5 plant sizes represented in circles (to scale) 2m down to 300mm, trees are shown as a black cross but assumed to be 5m+ canopy, climbers shown in solid triangles and bulbs as shade over an area... the central point, tip or cross marks the planting spot. These shapes are laid out pleasingly in the sketch plan and same species/cultivar circles are grouped with a linking line. This is still a theoretical plan as no plants are actually assigned yet, it is still in the space design level of the process.

From 2009_11_10

Actual plant combos can the be 'copied' from successful designers and books such as the RHS Planting Combinations by Tony Lordor Piet Oudolf - Designing with plants

Remarkably simple and no doubt efficient in reality if a little uninspiring for the plant-aholics in the group.

Section Elevation and Sections

Had a break through today with these. Worked out how to draw them more neatly and quickly. pics to follow might help explaining how.

Now I need to work on my garden graphics style!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Week III or is it IV?

Well it appears SketchUp is mostly for the 'boys' on this course. I loathe sexist statements and abhor the generalisation in most cases but the fact is that out of 16 people the 5 of 6 men managed a sketch up show and tell and only 3 of the 10 women managed it. That's much better uptake on their part. I do wonder at statements like 'men are better at levels' than women. Balderdash!. Some men maybe, but some women may knock their level socks off!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I.T. never works the way you think it is going to!

I.T. deep sigh.

I think of myself as someone who is not in the least flummoxed by IT. I am so wrong sometimes! On Sunday the lappy began to make weird noises, like a small growling cat inside the rubbish cooling fan. I ignored it, SOP for me with computers (!). By Tuesday it was really making A LOT of noise and getting a bit grumpy when it had to do anything. So I succumbed and shipped it off to the local, highly recommended Informatica 2000. They fixed it at moderate expense telling me the heat exchanger in the CPU had 'gone'. I am inclined to ask 'where exactly did it go?, Malta?, Alaska? maybe Australia?' but I resist once more knowing it is childish and not in the least bit funny to anyone but me. I realise I should have sent it back to Acer when it first had the overheating problem, it was within the warranty time and they would have fixed it for free. I simply assumed it was bad design having the fan on the base of the machine, oops.

I pick it up today, no noises, well not many, one of the 3 chaps in there tells me that the unit is discolored having got to temps of 85 degrees when it should be no more than 35. I wonder how he can know this, does it have a little temp gauge inside saying, 'really bloody hot in here' or some such? I keep my mouth shut and nod apologetically. He offers me some gadget to keep it cool. I refuse thinking amazon or ebay will sell it cheaper.

I notice the logon is not quite right and ask why, the answer is not totally clear but I figure I can fix it when I get home, WRONG.

I get home and it turns our somehow they have removed a registry entry for my user, meaning my user info cannot be found and it creates a temp account. Oh all the info is there but good old windows can't recognise it as belonging to my user. I waste an hour trying to fix it and give up. I'll call them on Saturday and they can fix it. HO HO HO.

Later I ponder if I know anyone who could fix it with me on the phone, I know two people who could probably do it in their sleep, but have spoken to neither for months, ok more than a year in one case, so I decide this is not a good plan. Roll on Saturday.

In the meantime I have completed homework for the week, my own garden site surveyed, who knew I had a sway back fence(!), the design for Urban Project no 1, more of the timeline after coming across a fabulous history of architecture for Noddy (oh ok by DK!) which gave me the whole 20th Century and some of the 19th too and finally started some notes on the essay.,.... Phew. All that and a new garden client for 1 day a month. Up to 2.5 days a month which all helps to stop the flood of outgoing cash, in theory

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire

After a minor panic about the soft landscape portfolio images for Autumn I rearranged my schedule on the weekend to visit Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire.
From 2009-10-10

Recommended for it's borders by CH, wife of Principal D, in her 'Garden of the Month'.

Weather was mixed but thankfully good enough for some dead images certs for the folio. Bumped into at least 2 fellow students, SE and her gorgeous family, TR and saw from a distance NC. We were all out to make the most of our last few autumnal weekends.

The herbaceous borders are all but done although the gone over Eupatorium pupurea and Solidago's were looking as good deceased as they would have full of life set off by the somewhat lively Wisteria which was looking remarkably verdant for this time of year. The simple scale of the borders and plantings was very satisfying.

Rounding a corner or two the grasses (Miscanthus malepartus and Carex ???) alongside Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and Phlomis saria looked equally striking and offered good views back across the aster filled herbaceous borders.

An interesting if odd mix of combinations and as an autumn garden certainly well worth the 90 min trip.

Oh and 2 people go free on and RHS card :)
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Running measures and triangulations

I have to crow today about being the first person in studio for two days in a row. This is a first for me as normally I have the furthest to travel each day and a park that is a good 10 minute walk away.

Our first client and site survey yesterday. After a short lecture on triangulation, running measures and direct measures we headed out to Project 1, an urban garden location. A brave client indeed to have 16 garden design students tromping about the modest boundaries trying to herd one another to get correct-ish measurements whilst battling with the over/undergrowth.

Attempting not to miss anything we would need later as no one wants to be ringing the client to ask 'if you could just pop out to re-measure for me...' how embarrassing!

Note to self: find friendly local Land Surveyor.

What questions to ask so all the relevant information is gleaned, "a conservation area?, great, oh and a water feature? sure, no maintenance? SURE..." and on it went. Luckily the tutors asked the Q's we forgot or didn't know to ask. After several years consulting I am used to playing a tag team game when interviewing clients this 16:1 was rather more than I was used to.

Drawing up the site survey overnight was a good exercise in seeing how to be better prepared for next time and taking pointers from C, an interior designer of many years, on short cuts to a good site survey.

After some serious persuasion by D we changed plans from a visit to the Oxford Botanic Gardens and ended the day in the Angel & Greyhound pub for a class get together, seems to be a tradition on the middle evening.

C and I stayed at Pickwicks B&B which is ok, not as great as I the lovely Henley B&B, and wireless that didn't work :( but ok, good breakfast, friendly people AND close to college. This part of Oxford is rather bereft of reasonably priced well appointed places to stay. I am staying at The Fleece in a couple of weeks time and although not close am hoping for MUCH better things from them.

Homework from last week was interesting to see. Drawing up a Speed Designed a garden. So many variations on the theme. Checking out other peoples work and although no feedback at all from the tutors it was never the less good to see what really worked well, and of course what worked less well.

This week it's designing for the Urban Project 1, site surveying our own gardens, more timeline - I have to complete the 18th Century section in the next two weeks(!), research an essay topic relevant to Garden Design in the 20th Century and, um and um... I am sure there is something else in there.

A busy 5 days ahead and that's without work & social life

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Greystone Day

How industrious do we look?!


A good day, well half day but filled with information about Picasa, Editing, PPT, Vector Works and Sketch Up. A great deal to take in and I'm glad I spent time familiarising myself with at least some of it. Today encouraged a shift in gear to really get to know all the packages.

Rain stopped play in the garden photography front although walking down to cars thorugh the damp forest was heavenly.
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Settling into the space

I am currently working from the dining room. All my books line the shelves and the oak table is plenty big enough for drawing board and computer, the light is good and it's close to the amenities!!.

Next week I am moving upstairs to the office, however first I need to recover 'the office' from the 'clutter' that lies, in an organised fashion, within but recover it I will. I have a plan, a shredder and determination amongst the small arsenal of clutter clearing tools and will be rid of the unwanted, unused, unloved 'stuff' in no time.

It feels like a good thing to have a room dedicated to the purpose and set up for the purpose. Maybe I won't lose so many things as a bonus into the bargain!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's hard to deny

It is indeed hard to deny just how compelling this PGDipl course at Oxford College of Garden Design is and the projects we're completing. I find myself planning books to read on trains, radio programs, TV programs - I watched TV for the first time in 2 weeks yesterday but it was Phillipe Starke doing an 'Apprentice style' TV program for product designers so that feels not too far from the subject of modern design.

The experience of being able to immerse oneself completely in a subject one enjoys, to explore many aspects of it is quite novel for me. A couple of more experienced friends have warned it may lose it's glamour and this is when the determination to succeed must kick in, but frankly I have done jobs in the past that I have loathed and done well at them, somehow I cannot imagine it ever being as hard as that. Call me an optimist.

My laptop is pared down, defragged (twice), almost backedup online and majorly cleansed in preparation for the lectures tomorrow. I have fiddled with Picasa and Flickr, blospot and my .NEF images because I can't wait until tomorrow to get all the info (impatient moi? VERY)

Now I need to dig out my manual for my 'old' D70 and work out another level of detail on getting more saturation in my images

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ben Nicholson round II

It's 23:18 on Saturday night and I have spent almost the entire day cutting and sticking last weeks homework again - by request - THIS time in mounting card. PVA is the devils work as you can't move it once it's down without it leaving gross marks on the card AARRGHHH!

3rd time of cutting it all out I used the repositionable spray mount, fabulous stuff!

Of course it looks more like everyone elses now so I suppose that's the aim achieved. It looks ok.
From My Pictmotions

I have managed to lose my gorgeous Rotring compass set, left at OB studio and mislaid my Bar compass which, although I was convinced it was here, it is not. I have now written my name on every item of equipment, per S's suggestion, should have done it last week.

Note to self, be more careful!

Next job, onto this weeks homework. Housework, laundry, family and food shopping will have to wait!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Week II part 2

Good and Bad design is so wonderfully subjective. Thank heavens we don't all have to like the same things. Today's lecture on Modern art and the influence it had, brought questions about what was good and what not and from the replies it was clear people had different views and sometimes they were opposing. No one is right or wrong it is simply different.

I was struck again by the inherent beauty of the Landscape Movement this time Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water concrete building. Beautiful and yet impractical and yet, well hauntingly beautiful in it's physical space. It shouldn't be, it materials are an aberration in nature and yet it isn't once you see it. Design paradoxes.

The weekend bodes quiet, good for contemplation of other peoples design successes. Gaining much needed inspiration for the homework project, our first garden in total. From squares and rectangles to a 3d space with elements of water, planting, lawn and paving/path.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week II - part 1

Travel & Parking = bete noir. That is all I am saying on that front.

Having printed and read notes for GD 103 and 104 we started on GD 101 and 102. Not to worry though, AM wandered through the centuries (6000bc to 1600ad) with engaging enthusiasm and not one of us fell asleep (per his prediction!). The Timeline project launched and the essays giving an intriguing offer to write on a subject of our choosing related to gardens or the 20th Century. Something we're interested in and perhaps will become expert in. The example of 'Concrete and its role in the Modern Garden Design' was perhaps not to my taste but mayhap someone will chose it!

A quick session from D to give clarification on the expectations for our soft landscape portfolios - one the season, one plant/color combination. This is going to be a lot of work and with some work they will be magnificent presentation packs.

Ben Nicholson
projects were so varied and interesting to see everyone's interpretation. How I missed the words 'mounting board' I don't know so mine was a tad flatter than the rest. It seemed others finished the in almost no time, if tales are to be believed, making me think I am a more than a tad slow at the cutting and sticking side of projects. Hope not to many more of them in the pipeline!

And a note to any prospective clients, you WON'T be getting these as an optional extra ;)

Downloaded the flickr uploader for XP which apparently can't see .NEF images, GROAN. Maybe its my settings??. So much for being an IT whizz. Today is more like IT Idiot!

Picasa tagging images from yesterday visits. Rousham truly was glorious. Especially those Dahlia....

From 2009_09_30

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Garden Visits

Blenheim and Rousham Gardens today.
From My Pictures

Blenheim: great tour guide who kept the information flowing and the 'gossip' relevant, although I notice not one mention of the rather wayward Marquis of B, best not mention him I suppose although he appears to have a great deal in common with the 5th & 6th Dukes!

Stunned that Capability Brown turned the fabulous partere into a large lawn. All in the name of progress. Found a not so Secret Garden which was by far the most appealing horticultural space, for me at least. Must make a visit in spring to see those 10k bulbs in bloom.

From My Pictures

Rousham: William Kent gardens Stunning, the sun came out finally. Blousy and suprising dahlia beds, huge and not so huge clipped box and yew, almost clouds but not quite there yet, interesting avenues pointing elegantly at statues and the understated laurel bordered rill. GORGEOUS.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NGS - Willow Holt

End of season for the NGS really but one or two brave places are still opening to the public. Conscious of the need to 'shoot' some autumn images for the photographic project I ventured out to Peterborough to Willow Holt.

It sits in the fenland outside of the town, remote and a little wild, set apart from the huge wind power turbines that grace the horizon and turn slowly.

From 2009_09_27

I chose to go mid/late afternoon to get better light of course assuming the light would be evenly cast. A good lesson in not making assumptions because of course the light in this garden was quite dappled and shady already. Low light shots instead.

Collapsed autumn-ness was upon it, though good structure and clear design prevented a total cave in.

The Dell in it's dappled afternoon sun made it worth the 1 hr trip.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Small Forests

A small forest has been 'donated' to provide sufficient paper to print out the OCGD student notes, well except one section on TPO's which is 92 pages, I'll read that on the laptop(!).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Week I

An anxious couple of days leading up to the start. Filled with emails from the principal and chief cat herder (!) D.

As they say "The best laid plans..." and mine turned to chocolate teapots one after another.

Day 1:
05:30: Rise, way too excited to sleep.
06:15: Emerge from 'noisy' meditation, still way too excited but marginally calmer.
06:45: ablutions complete, packed and re-packed kit and lunch. Realize that Daniel (the male voice of the Sat Nav, and so now the name of the gadget of endless disappointment, confusion and rage) is not charged. PANIC
07:15: Leave home, Daniel is as charged as he is going to get today.
09:08 Arrive at Parking in designated Hall of residence, Daniel is moaning that his battery is low. Check all directions to studio and turn off to save battery.

Somewhere between 09:08 and 09:45 Daniel coughs his last electron leaving me at a crossroads wondering left or right as both match the hasty directions gleaned from the dying embers of Daniels digital 'life'. I ask a local and confidently follow very definite instructions. MISTAKE.

10:05: Two very heavy bags and a very real need to visit the ladies, I telephone for help. How pathetic I think to myself, can't even plan for a simple location finding exercise without getting lost. This doesn't bode well for managing multi-million pound garden implementations!

Thankfully D is much less stressed than I am when we speak and sends A out to find me. Phew. I am much closer than we thought, in fact a mere 100 yds away. Double Phew.

13:00 After a morning of admin, it's lunch break in the brilliant sunshine, we are all trying to be on best behavior, making friends, sussing one another out. Much more nerve wracking than starting a new job ever was!

15:00 Free drawing big and not so big 'o's or letters, making out grids, wealding compass and adjustable set square, this is familiar. However I remain challenged on the letter drawing/modern art exercise. I am hoping secretly this is not the foundation of my new Garden Design career or I am in big trouble.

Day 2:
04:30: wake up worrying that I won't make it in Garden Design and am about to waste the best part of a year and a great deal of money on trying to make it happen.

Later: Forget parking permit, park in Pear Tree park and ride, no bus to right place till 10am. Damn, drive to P&R at Thornhill. Then ONLY 15 mins from car to studio. Impressed.

If you are thinking I am challenged in the car navigation department I can say hand on heart it is only since the arrival of Daniel, who is now relegated to the handbag and in serious danger of being auctioned off on eBay in the near future.

Much later: admin and vehicular logistics are still a bit chaotic and being sorted. I am let down on a previous arrangement, two in fact and try not to be disappointed but don't hide it well. D comes to the rescue again with an alternative closer than before. need to work out a minimal weight pack and reduce items to transport. PLANNING.

Really late: Home by 6pm. Reeling from all the info. Thankful for having done the 4 day course, which we are repeating so not needing to pay so much attention. AM clear that a great deal oif planning is required of me this weekend so that I can be organised and not miss things.

Wondering if the 1.5 days a month work is going to be possible.

Joyful that I may get a discount on council tax and a student rail card!

Still anxious about long term prospects, still VERY excited.
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