Despite having no telly, much less a Skybox, or a Wii, or computer even, Little Boots was very good in not voicing dissatisfaction with the absence of the technology that is so, so, so, taken for granted back home.

However, after a day spent mostly inside because of rain I could tell the munchkin was really fed up. What could I do to make life interesting for a five-year old I thought?

Then inspiration struck.

“Shall we make a bow and arrow?”

Little Boots almost bounced with glee, because back in the UK requests for such an item have been put off for a while now. I’m not opposed to it per se, but the layout of our garden means that there really isn’t the space. So being in France, with a whole orchard to practice in, provided the ideal opportunity.

As we scouted along the mixed native hedge that I had a hand in planting one cold Christmas seven years ago, in search of suitable wood, I showed Little Boots the various plants, explaining about the “bread and cheese” from Hawthorn, how the Romans introduced Sweet Chestnut with its twisted bark, that my granny used to make lots of Damson jam but it was bitter and horrible*, and how Blackthorn was used for drinks for grown ups and clubs in Ireland, but that some farmers hated it because it could hurt cows’ feet.

The munchkin appeared interested, though this may have been more to do with anticipation of the end result of our efforts.

Once we had the right sticks, I fished string and a sharp knife out of my pocket, and we sat down on a log and set to work.

“How do you know how to do this?” asked Little Boots as I strung the bow and twanged the cord to test the tension.

“It’s what we did when I was little”, I replied. “We didn’t have Wiis and stuff. And the telly was rubbish. Besides this is much more fun.”

And the twinkle in the munchkin’s eye told me that, for that short moment in time at least, I was absolutely right.

*All these years I’d thought that my granny was just a bad jam maker, but I recently read in A Garden In The Clouds that the author found it similarly bitter and awful.



We are just back from the annual trip to family in France.

It was the first visit that I have not helped out with even some slight horticultural task about the place, or visited a garden, or found something of botanic interest.

It would have been easy to do so had I made the effort, but I am bereft of effort.

I have realised one thing, aside from the fact that I must get into better physical shape, and that is that I have lost some focus in my life and also my interest in gardening has waned. And when that interest was actually a passion – or obsession really – call it what you will, that’s a big hole.

Horticulture did not entirely leave me. I bought a spade, and a couple of packets of seeds, and also read most of the contents of a trio of Hortus quarterlies that I took with me. The latter did however help with filling the void and may have provided the germ of an idea.

Time will tell.

The OH has just got back from a trip to France. Part of the ad hoc itinerary was a visit to some kind of Gallic flower show/country fair.

Whilst there, one of the people the OH was staying with, knowing of my burgeoning collection of sempervivums, wanted to buy me one. The OH who was travelling to and from the continent as a foot passenger vetoed this.

I wasn’t hugely impressed with that news. After all is there an easier plant to transplant than a houseleek?

Just take a plastic flowerpot, stuff it with cotton wool, scrunched kitchen roll, or newspaper even, invert over the sempervivum, secure with an elastic band or sellotape. Then slip it in a carrier bag with some holes in and the job’s a good’un.


It’d take up next to no space – it’s hardly a Wardian case.

Mind you I do say all that as a person who once took an eight-foot canary palm on a train.

But no. No, that would have been too much effort.

As I say, I was a bit miffed. I mean, why tell anyone about the present they nearly got.

The situation was ameliorated by a bottle of what looks like a French version of port and a jar of what appears to be mustard with samphire.

Interesting and delightful I’m sure, but I’d still have rather have had the Sempervivum.

And to add insult to injury I came home to find the OH slathering “My” mustard with what appears to be samphire, over a sandwich.

Apparently they are “joint” presents.

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