September 2009

aasThe last time I was ill for as long a period as this, I was suffering from blood poisoning. That wasn’t much fun either. So here’s the third week of illness and it is wearing me down. The respite provided by the first lot of antibiotics proved fleeting and I’ve spent the last week coughing like a jackal. A draining side-effect is that I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for weeks. As a result I’m feeling a very dark shade of blue indeed.

Probably ultramarine.

Still I should count my blessings. There was a poor woman in the doctor’s waiting room today explaining to a fellow ninny that, because of the credit crunch, she had been forced to go back to work. Not only that, her cash strapped situation meant that she was slaving away for a whopping nine hours per week. Nine whole hours! Per week!

I am being unkind. That’s what happens when you are fed up.

So, in an effort to lift my sprits, plans are in hand for next years plants. I have a notebook somewhere with jottings of ideas/schemes, that I’ve made during the season, for next year’s ornamentals. It’s something I always plan to do, but never quite get round to and if I could actually find the thing, I would be rather pleased with myself.

It’ll turn up, and anyway it’s the veg that I have in mind at the moment.

For many years I’ve looked, where possible, to have colour as an important part of the crops to grow. But of course this should not compromise taste. Following family tradition we’ve had yellow courgettes for many years. They look good, are firmer fleshed and less watery than the green ones. Also they are easier to spot amongst the foliage. A while back I grew the oft-vaunted “Painted Lady” runner beans, but whilst the red and white flowers were pretty, they provided rather a poor crop of very stringy beans, and so the Lady has not been invited back. Other colour staples include rainbow chard, yellow french beans, bronze fennel, plus chive and rocket flowers for salads.

Since Little Boots first ventured into the garden, there has also been a colour impact. Sometimes this has been for amusement, sometimes for more nefarious reasons. For instance this year we grew “Purple Dragon” carrots after Little Boots announced “I don’t like carrots!”. It was a bit of a shocker (especially as it was a lie) so I set about undermining, rather than confronting the situation. It worked a treat and they were a great success. The perisher also has a good eye for this unusual veg and actually spotted the seeds for the pale, grey, “Snowman” pumpkin we have grown this year.

And whilst this season has been the latest in an increasing veg colour explosion I’m determined that next year we will go batty with it all. We will definitely do Purple Dragons again. Also some gorgeously red-flowered broad beans that we grew called something like Windsor Red (I have the packet in a safe place somewhere), and much, much more.

Oh, and I plan to flood the allotment with nasturtiums, if only to drive the flower-hating falangists down there completely dotty.


Well the last week and half hasn’t been too good.

At first I felt a bit under the weather, this was followed by two days of headaches, sniffles and sore throats. “Not the dreaded swine flu”I hoped. The third day I was much better and much relieved. Alas in vain, because the day afterwards the lurgy returned with a vengeance.

And Lo! The Lurgy Was Called Swine Flu And It Wasn’t Much Fun.

That said, it wasn’t the worse dose of flu I’ve ever had and I’d have considered that I’d gotten off light if it wasn’t for the cough.

If you can imagine a demented werewolf, sitting at the bottom of well-shaft, trying to hack up the most enormous fur-ball, that will give you some idea of the volume and ferocity of the damn thing. As the flu receded, the cough intensified.

“You’ve got a chest infection,” said the other half, helpfully.

“I’ve got a headache,” I groaned.

“That’s because your brain is smashing against the front of your skull every time you cough,” replied the other half, cheerfully.

Sure enough, it was a chest infection and is now, with the help of antibiotics, receding, as I return to the world of the living.

Sometimes being ill is not entirely unpleasant – snuggling in bed reading, whilst eating comfort food and all that, but this bout was completely grim – I wasn’t even with it enough to read.

Added to which, every time  I opened the window to get some fresh air I was assailed by the noise of powertools. Some neighbours have a pair of cowboys in, attempting the world record for the longest time taken to lay a block-paved drive – four weeks so far, which roughly equates to a week per yard. I understand they advertise in the Yellow Pages under the trade name Mucking Fuppets.

Oh yea, and for a special laugh, I pulled a muscle in my stomach so that everytime I coughed it was like being stabbed in the belly too.

Little Boots was about two days behind me with the symptoms, but after sniffling for a day and a half, going very pale for 20 minutes and coughing three times, returned to full health. I was very relieved and somewhat jealous.

That aside, there was one other piece of good news. I passed my RHS3 exam. Not only that, I was just shy of a commendation, which was a slight shock as I was simply hoping to pass. Although I attend a local college for this course, about halfway through the first year I looked at the past papers and realised that the level of tutorage we were receiving was not going to get anyone through the exam. So I binned the scrappy notes I had made, started writing my own from scratch and pretty much stopped going to class.

So the way I see it, passing the exam was major achievement and all my own work. I just hope some of my classmates passed.

It was sad to hear of Keith Floyd’s passing.

I remember when Little Boots was an absolute tiny, being up before the sun trying to get the perisher back to sleep. If I ever had to relent, I’d knock the TV on and blearily watch something on Freeview. Scarcely being able to discern much more than sound and colours, Little Boots only ever showed any interest in Cbeebies, apart that is from Keith Floyd.

It must have been the movement, colours, pace and enthusiasm, but there really was something about the man’s cooking programmes that would captivate the little mite. People wouldn’t believe me until I showed them.

Rather bizarrely Keith also appeared in a cooking song on Balamory, although I never actually saw him in any of the many godawful episodes I had to endure.

Later in life Little Boots recognised him in the skit and demanded to know who he was. He seemed unimpressed with my response, but I do know that the munchkin will sometimes stop playing in order to watch a cookery programme with the grown-ups.

Coincidence? Who knows.

Whatever the case….

Cheers Keith!

As I Tweeted (Twittered?) the other day, The Beatles (and those that bang on about them) bore me to death.

I realise that I’m in a minority here, but was glad to find this week, that I’m not alone.

But I have another similar dislike.

Village shows.

They’re just… well… crap.

Trug Love.

When two plastic trugs become stuck together.

I know it’s down to suction, or vacuums, or moisture and surface tension, or something, but even if I knew exactly why they became glued together, it wouldn’t make it any less annoying.

One could, I suppose, drill holes in the bottom and this may well solve the problem, but one of the good things about said trugs is that they hold water.

So what is the best way of getting them apart if brute force fails? (which it usually does).

Well, prise them apart as far as is possible, at one side, and use a watering-can to tip water into the gap. Whilst it’s a limited amount of water that helps them cling on like a randy Jack Russell to a vicar’s trouser leg, more water actually forces them to separate. Just don’t expect to stay dry during the process, as they generally part with dramatic suddenness and the (now dirty) water goes everywhere.


I’m not usually one for impulse purchases, except plants of course, but when I saw a print in a local charity shop I had to have it.

It’s titled Magnolias and is by Stanley Spencer, although I didn’t realise that until after I’d acquired it.

I bought it solely because I love it (plus it was a bargain at four quid), although I’m now wondering whether I did subconsciously recognise the artist’s style.

Whilst I do like what I’ve seen of his work, I wouldn’t call myself a fan, by any stretch of the imagination. I once went to see his work in the Sandham Memorial Chapel, near Newbury. The whole of the inside is covered with paintings depicting the conflict in Macedonia during World War One. It’s pretty amazing, and made quite an impression on me – not least of all because my great-grandfather was seriously wounded in that particular theatre of war.

But enough of sad thoughts, there’s are more pressing concern – where to hang the thing. The other half doesn’t like it, it’s quite big at 2ft square and there’s not much wallspace in the “office” (i.e. small bedroom).

That, I guess, is the sort of hazard you get with spur of the moment decisions.



august 21 003Is this the coolest garden shed in the world?

Well it’s pretty darn cool, but mainly because it’s an old Citroen van in rural France.

If you used a knackered Ford Transit, parked up in long grass, in this country there is no way it would have the same charm. In fact, in some places, I suspect it would earn you a place on one of those “Neighbours From Hell” TV progarrmmes.

I guess it’s all about the setting, although the French would probably cite their “terroir”.

august 09 001

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