My ‘blog

Some days, you just grab the bull by the horns and fix things.

I mentioned the LCUK website before – languishing in it’s half finished state since 2010 I think!

So, for reasons best known only to my brain, I had a sudden brain-fart this afternoon about how to sort it out (detailed over here in this ‘blog post), did much much Google searching (you don’t want to know just how many tabs and windows I have open right now!) and attacked it with gusto this evening!

It’s looking so much better it’s untrue! This make me very geek happy.

Having it (pretty much) sorted and also adding in the ability to upload the rest of the site fairly easily… is “a good” in my world


I’ve become rather orchid obsessed of late…

It started back in 2011, when a friend bought me an Mini Phalaenopsis Orchid as a housewarming present (20/8/2011)… You can see it here in the background of one of  my profile photos on Facebook.

I didn’t really hold out much hope for it; because of my hectic lifestyle, I tend to forget to water plants, and generally neglect them.

However, given that “general day-to-day ignoring” is pretty much what orchids like (to a certain extent) the little fella not only survived, but thrived.

About 4 months later, Lydia was then bought an orchid as a work leaving present. That ended up living on the kitchen windowsill  as well.

And so they sat for about 18 months. I didn’t fertilise at all (Although I bought the stuff required, I didn’t actually open it until about 5 months ago!), and watered them both about once a fortnight, if I remembered!

That was fine until summer ’13 – the windowsill is above my sink, which gives the needed humidity and the window is east-facing and mostly tree shaded, so they lots of light but only get about 2 hours of direct sunlight every day. So, the happy orchids dropped their blooms slowly as would be expected, with the spikes dying off in late autumn and then new spikes growing up to rebloom in late winter/ early spring.

I think that this was all very much “by accident” – I discovered much later than the main key to orchids re-spiking is a regular ~10C drop in temperature day-to-day. And so, my opening the kitchen window when cooking of an evening, especially in the winter, is enough of a temperature delta to encourage new spikes.

I did notice however that Lydia’s orchid was getting a little root-bound in its pot (which orchids like, up to a point), and my little orchid started to look a bit sorry for itself, and although it was still growing blooms on its spike, the blooms below the new ones were dropping off more quickly than expected.

At this point I started doing a little internet research and discovered that Orchids need re-potting every year or so; the media in which they sit breaks down and becomes acidic, which harms the roots. Both my orchids had been in their original media for at least 2 years at this point. So, I started to think about re-potting them, and when Matthew asked me what I wanted for my birthday, orchid re-potting kits was the request made.

However, Matthew is really not the most organised of chaps and I finally got my kits in February.

Before that however, I did some TLC on my little orchid, as it was starting to look really really unhappy. It was supporting its spindly flower spike, but had dropped a couple of leaves over summer. It put out a new leaf to compensate for the losses it has suffered, but the lower leaves were puckered, leather like and turning red/yellow. The medium it was sitting in was looking blackened, there was what looked like a white fungal bloom on the media surface and it smelled bad/moldy as well. It had been originally potted into very tightly packed sphagnum moss  and a very small pot. This over-packing is common in shop orchid, it means that they move less in transit, but it’s terrible for their long term health!

So, as a “short term temporary fix” whilst I waited for new pots, I eased it out of  the pot and broke up/away as much of the bad moss media as I could easily peel off, without taking away too much as I had nothing to replace it with. Then I plopped it back into the pot, but didn’t press it in at all firmly, leaving a big gap under it to the base of the pot, making sure the roots were not squashed any more.  I suspect this is what actually saved it, as when I did get to re-potting it properly, my little orchid had very much developed root rot.

So, when my kits finally did arrive, I fetched myself over to  YouTube, where there are many good videos on orchid re-potting.

It’s really rather easy to re-pot an orchid, healthy or sick, so being suitably informed, and armed with new 15cm pots and a bark based media,  I started the process.

I did Lydia’s orchid first as I thought it would be the easier of the two to do. I had slight misgivings about re-potting at that point, as it was later in the life-cycle than ideal, and it had a very healthy flower spike going on, with lots of blooms. However, from what I could see from the outside it had fat & healthy roots so, given what I’d seen on YouTube, I wasn’t too worried I was going to cause harm.

All in all, it was a bit of an operation – the roots had grown so tightly around themselves and the sides of the pot that they were actually cracking the pot due to sheer volume pressure! Getting it out of the pot and getting it to let go of all its old media (thankfully bark & perlite based, hence the healthy roots) was a trick and a half. I ended up breaking the pot in two (Which given it was actually a good quality pot was rather difficult!) and poking through the gaps in the roots at the old media it with a Japanese chopstick to get most of it off and out! Once done however, I settled it into its new pot with little difficulty as it could support itself easily.

My little orchid though, a different matter…. This YouTube video on re-potting an orchid with rotten roots pretty much sums up the bad state that the roots were in: (Although I didn’t actually find/watch this one until about 2 months ago)

It had been in its flimsy pot packed tight for so long that, even though I’d been consciously only sparingly watering it for a while, all the roots from the underside of the orchid were black/dead and squishy/slimy. I think bar one long & skinny sub-surface root hanging in there, it just had a few sickly, straggly air roots left. So, I cut off the flower spike and popped it in a glass of water (Which hindsight now says I should have done when I stripped out the rotten media a few months before), cut away as much dead root stuff as possible, then rinsed the roots well, buried all of them in bark mix and hoped.

I also started using the fertiliser I’d bought in 2011, I’d soaked the potting medium in fertilised water before potting up, and then I started checking the pots and watering with fertiliser regularly,  & generally “clucking” over both of them.

It was at this point that my current obsession started to actually kick in. I watched more Orchid Videos. I “fell down the YouTube Hole” and started to learn about optimum conditions, and also that I’d used pots that were actually too big. Orchids like to be snug in their pots, and 15cm for both of them was really too big. So, about a month after the first re-potting, I moved my little orchid over into a 9cm pot. It’s not ideal to re-pot that often, but it definitely looks happier for a smaller pot.

I also learned about nodes and bracts and about encouraging spike branching and also the phenomenon of natural cloning – keiki (The Hawaiian word for baby)

It was looking at all these videos that made me notice that the node below the flowers on the flower spike on Lydia’s orchid had swelled a touch and was poking out of its bract. So, I thought I might try encouraging it to branch. At a basic level, this involves giving it hormones in the form of what is called “Keiki paste” – The plant hormone “cytokinin” with some vitamins mixed into lanolin.

So, I found a UK supplier, bought some, cut back the bract carefully as instructed, applied it and waited.

Keiki paste applied to potential stem bud - it grew a little, but not that much!
Keiki paste applied to potential stem bud – it definitely grew a little, but not enough to become a branch!

So, my experiment sort of had an effect, but not much. I didn’t fuss overly, and I suspect looking back on things, I applied the paste a touch later than I potentially should have done for a successful branch, as about two weeks later the spike changed from vibrant green to a darker shade and and started the slow process of dropping its blooms, and about a week for that that the plant then put up a new spike.

Lydia's orchid - one spike waning, the other waxing! Full bloom striped orchid flowers

So, as I was gently cooing over this new growth, and happy that I’d obviously done the right things when potting on both of them – As well as the above, the little orchid started growing new roots and another new leaf almost immediately!

My original orchid - healthy new air roots and leaves.
My original orchid – healthy new air roots and leaves.

Meanwhile,  spring started properly happening – and that means orchids in bloom start being sold. Looking at all the pretty blooms as one shops does not make not buying more easy, however, their prices do!

Orchids are not mega-expensive, but they aren’t really cheap.   So, I was happy to admire the pretties as I bought my lunch foods without getting my wallet out. Mostly…

At the end of May I bought my third orchid. Lydia wasn’t really surprised at me. She’s been expecting me to buy another one given the amount of YouTube watching I’d been doing and the amount of cooing over my current two I’d been doing.. However, it wasn’t a conventional purchase. I’d been looking at a particularly fine “Ceramic Gift Orchid” specimen for about 10 days or so, so I was rather shocked and sad one lunchtime when I walked up to the orchid shelf for my usual longing resistive admire and noticed that it looked “the wrong shape”- So, I looked properly and  some rotten sod had broken both of its spikes!

Just as I was looking at it, the Grocery manager also spotted it. A quick conversation later about orchid loving later and I got it for £4 rather than £12!

I took it home, quickly consulted YouTube about the best way to cut the spikes to maybe encourage a re-branch, snipped off the spikes about 2cm above the second node and and stuck them both in a glass of water to enjoy whilst they lasted and re-potted my new orchid.

My third orchid, adopted 6 weeks ago because its flower spike has been broken off in the shop and the manager let me have it cheap!
My third orchid, adopted 6 weeks ago because its flower spike has been broken off in the shop and the manager let me have it cheap!

I then had the somewhat mad idea about the potential of growing keikis from the cut stems, as the article I referenced above said was possible. After all, not really much to lose eh!

So, I peeled back the bottom bract and stuck a good coating of paste on. Within a few days the nodes on both started to swell.

Cut stem keikis - again from my third orchid
Cut stem keikis – fingers crossed they actually grow!

I’m hopeful that they will survive, I’m changing the water about once a week to ensure oxygenation and giving them a drop of fertiliser. Given the various articles and forum posts I’ve found on cut-stems growing a keiki on the internet I’m crossing my fingers, but if they die, they die.

Going back to the plant itself, I left it sitting on the window sill for a month to settle in. The cut spikes stayed green and healthy, but showed no hint of node swelling for a branch, so I thought what the heck, peeled back the bracts, slapped on keiki paste and hoped for either new branch activity on one or both spikes or maybe a keiki on one of them if I was very lucky.

Looks like I got my orchid pregnant with twins,  I’ve a keiki growing on both spikes!

Playing with keiki paste on my third orchid - I got my orchid "pregnant"! Playing with keiki paste on my third orchid - I got my orchid "pregnant"!

If all of them survive, then I’ll have 4 new independent orchid plants in about 2 years.

So, by now my kitchen windowsill was looking rather full – but when this beauty with absolutely nothing wrong with it had a “reduced to £3.60” sticker slapped on it, again from £12, it also had to come home with me.

My newest lovely - Can't believe this was very reduced in price!Blooms on my 4th orchid - very much reduced in price by the shop, but really not at all devalued!


I’ve not re-potted this one, the media it’s on looks good, so I’ll wait until it’s done blooming.

So, this is now what my kitchen windowsill looks like.

Windowsill of Orchids

So, I’ve 3 yellow & pink flower orchids… I keep lusting over the purple flowered orchids, but I know I’ve really no more space!

“Change please?!”

This is what beggars say as we walk past them –  “Change please?”

& yet a plea for money could be seen, in this context, as having a double meaning. A person begging for money also needs real change.

When did a handful of coins get the nickname “small change” anyway? And, does a handful of small change actually cause change in this, or any instance?

Change can mean so much, especially in this context. I’m as guilty as the next person of generally walking by… I tend to apologise for not giving, even when I know I’ve no change in my purse or my life that I can give.

It was deeply ingrained in me when I was younger- “Don’t give money, they will only spend it on Alcohol” – so I have been known to buy people food, & one particularly horrific January a while ago, when I was rather poor myself (for a given meaning of “poor”)  giving my wool gloves to a chap who’s hands were blue (I could buy another pair of gloves after all)

Given that we are living in one of the richest countries in the world, I wonder why we cannot “spare any change?” for people that need it.


I’ve got all these words

I commented on this on Twitter a while back now, about having the ideas for opening paragraphs to multiple ‘blog posts flit through my head as I’m wandering, the urge to just “write stuff out” when I’m generally not anywhere near a PC. Someone noted that I should maybe use a note book to capture the thoughts, but given that a) my hand writing is so shocking that even I can’t read it on occasion & b) the thoughts usually happen when I’m walking, this doesn’t really help.

Thus, the words escape untamed. Which is annoying, infuriating and otherwise irritating. 

Because they are generally thoughts that could use noting.  Political thought (I sometimes amaze myself at how political I am now!), fun thoughts, dyeing thoughts, time thoughts

The thoughts about how horrifically 49% of the population treat the other 51% on a great deal of our blue-green planet, how lots of us actually treat this planet.  How people can not want to help others in small altruistic ways, how they can just not see that being selfish ultimately is self destructive.

Thoughts around how I could get my crafty on, yarn dyeing ideas, how best to dye fibre, how the heck I find the time to do it, let alone the space.

There are thoughts about “wanting more” – reaching higher, going further, living deeper.

Given that the WordPress app can now do offline drafts, some of these thoughts might even make it out of my head. You never know…

I’ve given into the fact that I’m now a “Green” – and so, I used my vote accordingly.

Well now…

Last January (2013), myself and a whole bunch of friends (25 or so) took the test over at The Political Compass and generally discovered that we are a bunch of Liberal Lefties (apart from 2 very Authoritarian Neo-Liberals!).


I observed at the time “I appear to have shifted even more left libertarian in the last 6 years…” – Apparently, my personal politics is rather akin to “Old Labour” (no surprised there, given Granddad was a staunch socialist and most of my early years socialising education came from living in my Grandparents house) – And my views have stayed around the same area from first took The Political Compass test back in the early 2000’s (I can’t actually remember exactly when, just know that I’ve been recommending the site for years now, and I seem to remember taking the test for the first time sitting in my room in Poplar… So, that would put it somewhere around 2004-2006)

However, having settled on believing myself a “Lib-Dem” for the last 8-10 years or so, when I took a “Who should I vote for?” test at one of the sites that give views analysis before the last General Election, I didn’t believe it when it told me that I politically most aligned with Green Party thinking – (“After all,” (thought past, non-political Nikki) “it’s the Green Party, no one votes for them, they are a fringe party, no one takes them seriously, right???”) – I vocalised and cast my vote Lib-Dem, solidly believing that the wind of change was coming, and that two-party politics might be finally changing.

Oh Gods, how wrong was I!!!

Anyway, after 4 years of the current stuff, and with the Euro Elections on-going, I decided to revisit my attitudes and remove my prejudice. (I’ll also freely admit that 4 years ago I was a very politically uneducated person – which is now changed thanks to having an anarchist activist flatmate for a year and Girlfriend with a degree in Politics with Economics!)

So, I took another “how should I vote?” test, and again, it told me that I most ideologically aligned with the Greens. So, How does that work?

Looking at their Manifesto, and given my “tick-box” answers, they share about 75% of my world view.
And in a top 5 of issues that most people care about (or should care about, such as the TTIP), as shown in this and this ‘blog post  by Another Angry Voice, I’m 100% in agreement with them. Which is actually not hard, considering all the other main parties are “against” or “neutral to” about the issues of which I’m passionately in favour.

So, just to check I’m still a Libertarian Left (Socialist), I retook the Political compass test just now – I’ve inched a minuscule amount both right and up (I suspect this is because I changed my mind on the Death Penalty preference, but could also just be the vagaries of my mood today!):

20140522-political compass

Comparing this to the 2010 UK Political Parties post on Political Compass:

2010 party positions

it can bee seen that indeed my personal politics are right now  most closely aligned with the Green party- even though in my teens and twenties I voted Labour and then moved to the Lib-Dems as Labour became “new” –  and I haven’t changed how I see the world in 20 years probably…

This is explained by the massive march towards Authoritarian Right (Neo-Liberalism) that the other main players have made (Chart below shows up to 2008 – the march has progressed even further since!):

shifting party lines

(I also wish the guys behind Political Compass had shoved Green on there as well, but I can understand why they haven’t..)

So – The upshot of this, is that for the first time in my life I did something I never ever thought I would do – This afternoon, I voted Green.

Using personal introspection and analysis, given that I know I’ve not changed, but effectively the political landscape has, I’m happy to move party lines. I suspect that most “dyed-in-the-wool” left-wing peoples are not as analytical as I, because if they were, I suspect the Green party would have a MUCH greater representation than they do!

So, my vote today can effectively be considered a “protest vote” – I live in a very safe Labour borough – and as anyone that knows me will know, for me, not voting at all is NOT an option.

However, I don’t feel bad about this, after all:
Stewart Lee Quote