June 2009

Imagine this – the whole family is running late for school, work, an’that – one of you goes to the hall to get shoes.

On entering there are wasps all over the shop.

Having sneakily nested inside the flat roof over the hall, they’d got bored with coming in and out thru’ the eaves and decided to “knock through”.  There was a walnut-sized hole in the ceiling (which was so, so, not there last night), where they had chewed through the plasterboard.

This was a zombies-clawing through the walls-to get you type scenario and so a really unsettling, and frankly shitty, way to start the day.

So, as the saying might go, “When the going gets tough, the tough get hold of some nasty chemicals”.

So, now they are all hopefully dead. I’m not proud of that, but home invasions by potentially lethal insects are not to be welcomed.

After all, if you wanted that sort of shit you’d move to Australia.


Fortunately that Little Boots was born with a healthy appetite, but I think that the broad palate that goes with it is down to deliberately introducing (and persevering with) new foodstuffs at an early age.

The news that LB will have a try at eating most things and loves fruit and veg is the sort of thing that has other parents either swooning with admiration, or convinced you are bullshitting them.

Mind you, this love of fruit and veg can cut both ways on occasion. For instance, as small child Lil’ Boots was looked after one day a month by his Granny. On one occasion they were at the shops and she was told by the munchkin to buy broccoli, because “I love it”. She refused to believe that a 2 year-old child would demand such a thing.

Later on, we corrected her most empathically. The trouble was that thereafter, whatever LB demanded, Granny bought. Of course, as is the way with children, this was soon cottoned onto and our fridge and cupboards were usually found once a month to contain something outlandish, or undesirable that the perisher had told Granny that we bought all the time.

Another example occurred more recently. Junior has a small raised bed in the garden, almost entirely swamped with strawberries. They have been taking an age to ripen and LB was getting impatient. The other evening I had a look and announced that they could be taken to school the next day as the mid-morning snack.

Now as it happens I kept the munchkin up a bit later than usual in the hope of a small lie-in as I had the following day free and punctuality wasn’t a big deal. Did I get a lie in? Did I bugger. LB was awake at just after six (at least a full hour early) and demanding we go strawberry gathering.

If it had been on telly, Jamie Oliver, or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would have leapt out of bed grinning like a loon at this child’s enthusiasm.

Me, I first buried my face deep into the pillow, in order to muffle my swearing.

Little Boots and I were out wombling yesterday. Learning the names of trees was failing dismally in attention grabbing, but was faced with tough competition as it was up against lobbing stones into a stream.

Even that was starting to wear thin, until we came to a sycamore. Excitement then switched to gathering the few seed helicopters that were lying on the ground. Noticing a short field maple a little way off I grabbed some seeds from it to show the two types together.

Of course, this did not have the desired effect and I was expecting to be hit with demands that I climb the sycamore, when junior found a sycamore seed with three wings.

Keen to impress how unusual this was I stated that I had never seen such a thing before in my whole life.

“Neither have I,” declared Little Boots with all the sage wisdom a five year old could muster. “Let’s find some more.”


In my teens I often used to work with my father whilst he fixed cars. Probably the most lasting thing I learnt was the importance of having the right tool for the right job. This holds good for many things including gardening. It also pays to buy the best tools you can. Cheap tools are just that and mostly make work harder than it needs to be, or even create work.For gardening, if you can afford just one tool make it a good digging fork, because at a push it can also be used like a spade and a rake.

I’d love to say that was a piece of wisdom I learnt at my father’s knee, but the truth is I learnt it part from experience and part from a Geoff Hamilton book.

Mind you, if I’d been told that as a child I would have laughed. The “garden” fork at home was entirely made of heavy steel – what was called at the time a Paddy’s fork – and was a legacy of 12 months my dad spent as a navvy digging trenches for British Gas.

It was an unholy thing to use if you were anything other than a fit, fully grown man.

It did teach me that there’s nothing clever about using a big fork, or spade. I like to use a border fork and spade for most jobs. They work on the same principle as body-building.

What do I mean by that? Let me explain – body builders get all muscley by doing a lot of work. They don’t do this load of work by lifting a huge weight a few times, they do it by lifting smaller weights lots of times. It’s easier to do a lot of work if you break it down into small pieces. So, if you are going to do a lot of digging, unless you are a navvy, or weight-lifter, use a small fork all day, rather than knackering yourself in under an hour, with a big one.

I’ve drifted off the point.

Whilst just having just a garden fork will allow you to manage, and plenty of gardeners get by their whole lives with a spade, a fork, a rake and a hand trowel, many of the others are fools for tools.

I feel I could easily fall into that trap, and so I try only to buy tools that will earn their keep.

That said I do love Sneeboer tools, they look so cool and are so well made from ash and stainless steel – wonderful strong, attractive and long-lasting materials. I could quite easily buy the whole range. But I have shown iron resolve (stainless steel resolve even) and only have a couple.

At Chelsea a few weeks back I bought one of their small Perennial Spades which is a diddy, pointed thing, less than two foot long and used for many jobs whilst kneeling. My knees have always been suspect, but are now just plain ropey, so the up and down of planting and such isn’t much fun at all. Consequently a tool I can use without having to keep standing up and kneeeling is completely justifiable.

So there I was buying a tool that I know I need and so am sure will be useful.

Of course rules, like hearts, are made to be broken.

Thus, just a few days later I bought a turfing iron at a car boot sale for a fiver.

I bought it because it was a bargain – (they go for a minimum of £20 on EBay)

Because it was a beautiful thing.

Because I’ve wanted one for ages.

And because I have no use for it whatsoever.