Monday, 24 December 2007

The final countdown

Failure. Total failure. I spent all weekend chanting 'I must be ready for Monday, I must be ready for Monday'. Sure enough I woke up at the crack of dawn, but for the life of me couldn't remember what I had to do. After some scuffling, I managed to get H up to fuel me with some coffee, but I still couldn't remember. Then there was a terrible grinding sound outside the window. The bin collectors! I screamed at H.'What are they collecting? Is it the bin or the container?' 'Both!' 'Well get our bin out...move it! 'Which bin?' It doesn't matter which bin...move a bin out towards the road!' 'Which bin?' 'Oh for Christ's sake!' 'I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE BIN!' '****!!!' 'It's too late, they've gone...' 'What do you mean they've gone?' 'They're down the road now..' 'Well follow them! Tell them to come back!' Chase them with the bin...' ' ' (The well known silent treatment). The bin wasn't emptied. Now I face a Christmas and New Year of shame. Piles of rubbish. Killer bacteria. Rat infestation. What makes it worse is that I know my bin cleaner is coming today. What is he going to say when he finds the bin still full? Oh the disgrace! Dear Readers I can only recommend another blog where this sort of thing never happens. A blog where all is grace and charm. It's at:
Sorry to have wasted so much of your time...

Friday, 21 December 2007

Shakin' Stevens

I wasn't going to write to you today, but it's been such a RED LETTER DAY, as we say, that I thought I must. As you know we had no allotment group scheduled so I agreed to collect money for our mental health charity outside Tescos. Of course, I dressed for the occasion with my new bright red furry jacket, large Russian hat (well it was freezing cold), and natty little mouse pin whose eyes light up and play Jingle Bells when its nose is pressed. I was soon into the swing of things calling out, 'Save the Mad. We can't help it!' and gathering in pots of money, when our leader informed me I mustn't use the word mad as it would upset the others. But, I said, I'm mad myself. Really, he said, I would never have guessed. But, I said, I thought we were all mad in this charity. Surely you're not telling me you're sane? He took my point. Suddenly he did something quite amazing and totally illegal: he shook his tin! Despite my protests he continued. Won't it be fun when we get arrested? he kept saying. Eventually the store manager came out and told him to stop. Anyway, it was great fun for an hour, but I have to say two and a half hours (which I later found out I'd been scheduled to do) was a bit much. I was amazed at how generous the citizens of Cambridge were, especially as this week we've had a real shock. We've been told we must put out next week's bins a day early and the week after next's a day later. It's all so complex! I came home to find the street deserted. Perhaps everyone has cracked under the strain? How relieved I was to enter my front door and find the beautiful pot pourri I'd made still in place and covering the rampant smell of cat's (or cats') pee magnificently. If you want to know how it's done: you open a few packets of spices from the local Indian (or Pakistani) shop into a large tray; over the top of this you place bay leaves, rosemary and sprigs of anything with red berries; then you nestle in amongst this four oranges which have been generously spiked with whole cloves. So simple, so cheap, and quite, quite wonderful!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Bleak House

Lordy, what has happened? Is my photo to be permanently squidged? This is what happens when you start playing with things you don't really understand. Computers. Cars. Candles. Yes, candles. I bought a whole stack of cut price ones and last night thought I'd try a few out. After spending about half an hour on my knees trying to get them lit, I settled down for a romantic evening in front of the TV. I was thoroughly engrossed in 'House of the Tiny Tearaways' so at first didn't notice the smoke. By the time I did notice flames were leaping out of the tiny glass jars. I managed to smother most of them with my cup of Horlicks, but goodness knows what could have happened had I been less alert. So much for cheap Chinese imports! Anyway, I was disappointed to discover that 'House of the Tiny Tearaways' was about children and not cats, as I could well do with some help in that area at the moment. This morning I awoke to find the back and front ends (ie not the middle) of a mouse on the carpet. Next thing I knew Tiger Woods was being violently sick----you've guessed it, the middle was making its comeback. Having cleared everything up, I went into the office to start work on the computer and noticed a very penetrating odour of cat's (or cats') pee. I suspect Tiger again as I know he doesn't like to 'go' outside when it's cold. Now I'm writing this I can hear the two of them dismantling the decorations in the living room. I need more than a couple of clinical psychologists I can tell you.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Time for bed

Oh lordy, I don't know what to say. I was just going to make a quick check on my blog this morning, only to find something totally untoward has happened with the banner photo. It's disappeared up its own arse, that's what! As I've no idea how to put this in computer language, I don't know if I can restore it for you. Oh, poor festive readers. What a thrill you are missing! No doubt, though, you are not too bothered about that, as you've come to hear about the allotment. Yes, well the little group went up there on Friday, inspected the pile of manure, and decided to have some heartwarming cocoa and biscuits. I took up the BBC Gardeners' World magazine free calendar, which is quite magnificent this year, as a gift for the shed. We also inspected our broad beans, onion sets and garlic, all of which are doing well. People think you don't do anything in an allotment over winter---I hope I've convinced you otherwise. We were very busy harvesting our three remaining parsnips, comparing our Wellington boots, and dunking our biscuits. We decided to leave the digging of the Victorian hot bed until next year...The garden, too, looks a picture of quiet contentedness. Most mornings now the pond is frozen over and I can see an abundance of bulbs poking through the wet earth. Another fun-packed year is coming to an end.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Magic Moments...

I'm feeling a bit delicate this morning. It was our end-of-term dinner last night. And no, it wasn't the drink (I'm TT). It was getting ready for the event. No-one, but no-one, truly understands what short, fat, well-endowed (since the HRT) women go through preparing to go out of an evening, so I'll try and let you know. After a luxurious bath and around an hour spent grouting my face with make-up, I managed, after a short tussle, to get into my M&S Magic Knickers. These made it almost impossible for me to move throughout my abdomen area. I knew then that the tights were going to prove a problem, and so they did. Even though I was perched on the end of the bed, I found I could not turn my feet easily into the toes and ended up with a twisted mess around my ankles, which I then had to sort out, before embarking on a long and highly tiring adventure trying to get each leg up to my thighs and waist. How is it that tights can suddenly turn backwards on you half way up? Anyway, the battle with the tights was nothing compared to the war I was about to have with my new pair of boots, which only two days previously had fitted perfectly well and easily.On the first assault, I discovered I could not get my feet into the boots. My heels were getting stuck on a hard bit on the inside of the boot heels. I hauled and hauled, puffed and panted, but it was all to no avail. Thinking that the problem might be that my feet were slightly swollen from the hot bath (and the Magic Knickers---well, it has to go somewhere, doesn't it?), I declared an Armistice, went downstairs and did a relaxation exercise. Then I thought, perhaps it would work better if I rolled the boots down when putting my feet in. I tried this...yes, we were getting closer...more pulling, pushing and now stamping. Suddenly, both feet sank into position. Oh joy! Then I found I could't roll the boots back up. I thought perhaps this won't matter, and went upstairs to put on the delightful skirt and top I'd decided on for the evening's festivities. I looked totally and utterly ridiculous. Another 15 minutes was spent unravelling the boots, millimetre by millimetre, trapped finger by trapped finger, up my calves. Voila, I was ready....Now I only had to put my make-up back on (I'll leave you to guess what my face looked like my this time) and I could go out...The rest of the evening went swimmingly, though a couple of people did ask why I had my head propped up on the cruet.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Mistletoe and whine...

Lordy, where to start? This week we actually got to the allotment and found about 2 tons of manure parked not where we'd asked for it but in the space planned for the greenhouse. Oh well, it could have been worse. At least they left the shed standing...Obviously 2 tons of manure is too much even for a very ample Victorian hotbed, so we started working out what else we could do with it, with the result that our soft fruit bushes now have an ample duvet covering which should see them through the worst of winter. I then nearly killed myself trying to transplant 2 gooseberry bushes into the plot. Realising I was risking yet another back injury I asked the men (who were all tottering around the mower---they like it because it makes lots of noise), to kindly do the third one while I made the tea. It only took three of them...I got home to find all my Vincas (do you remember them?), and my Chinese lanterns had been delivered. Of course it's done nothing but pour with rain ever since, so I've had no chance to plant them. I continue to have trouble in hyperspace....I was informed this morning that I need to kiss 19 more people under the mistletoe before I can move on to the next level (evidently there's a whole heap of more interesting things you can do under mistletoe than just kiss people---the rest of the world knows about this, I don't). Well, I thought I'd just inform my friends (27!) of this, when I discovered that all my applications had shut down. Will be visiting the doctor next week to get more tablets...

Monday, 3 December 2007

You looking at me?

It looked as though it was going to be a very quiet week. Afterall, we didn't even make it to the allotment. Our leader still has back problems, and when we arrived at base camp we found that a large bring and buy sale was in progress. It was a tough choice. Horticultural or retail therapy? Retail therapy won hands down, of course. So we were soon all ferreting away in endless cardboard boxes finding those little gems we never thought we'd need. I walked off with a nesting box, an aromatherapy set and a VERY surprise gift for Husband. Then, on Saturday night, H and myself were just snuggling down on the sofa ready for a quiet night of TV viewing, when Roland Garros arrived bleeding profusely from his back paw. Our stairwell quickly took on the look of a Quentin Tarantino movie as we tried to catch the cat and clean his paw. We eventually got him on a towel on our bed. I pinned him down and H did the necessary work with the bandage (not easy for H as he tends to faint at the sight of blood). I managed to keep Roland G still for an hour with his paw upright and the bleeding stopped. Just as well, as, as soon as I let him go, he removed the bandage completely. Anyway, the next day Roland G was fine but H and myself were completely exhausted. I still feel wiped out this morning and barely had time to write this log as my Facebook activities are taking longer each day. I now have 23 friends! Today, however, I accidently deleted my Robert de Niro talking dog video which upset me a great deal. The whole system seemed a bit odd today. My jigging hamster seemed to set itself off, and then I ended up sending stuff to everyone which I thought I'd only sent to one person. Then I tried to apologise to everyone and the system went bananas and I found that everything I was doing was sent out twice. I had to stop, calm down and do a little light housework, I can tell you. There are days when I regret my ventures into hyperspace....

Monday, 26 November 2007

There I was digging this hole...

Oh dear dear dear. Woe is me! I've spent the weekend on my back---back, neck, and jaw done in---from over-exerting myself at the allotment. Let this be a lesson for you, Dear Readers. The manure didn't arrive, but I ended up digging two very deep holes for my new redcurrant bushes (RHS prizewinners again!) in what can only be described as the most penetrating, freezing cold imaginable. Our leader was planting 10 raspberry canes (why do we need raspberry canes? We already have loads at the far end of the allotment left by the last owner). And I noticed that his holes were MUCH TOO I commented on this...Quite an argument about hole digging ensued...and we all had to be reminded that violence is not permitted by the charity we work for! To make matters worse, I went out to lunch on Saturday and had a delicious bowl of mussels, only to find out later, judging by activities in my lower intestinal system, that the sauce contained flour (I'm sensitive to gluten). Oh poorly me! Anyway, I feel better today. I've added a counter on my Facebook site and have discovered I am being visited by 0.3 people a day (after much cyberspatial arm wrenching), and I am 88029 in the popularity stakes. To keep you up-to-date on bird feeding activities. The coconuts are a hit but the peanuts haven't been touched.

Monday, 19 November 2007

On the road again...

Big news from the allotment this week...we've decided to make a Victorian hotbed! It happened like this. We were all working away when an enormous Private Consignment of Horse Manure arrived for another plot (on a tractor trailer, I hasten to add, not out of the sky). I said, 'I didn't know, you could get Private Consignments of Horse Manure, and, if I had, I would have suggested making a Victorian hotbed' (I had just read about these in a magazine). Well, our leader's eyes went as wide as saucers, and the next thing I knew we had ordered the aforementioned manure and it will be delivered next week. Now, of course, I'm a little anxious, as I've not actually got any experience making Victorian hotbeds...I dealt with this anxiety by very quietly planting another row of onion sets (good advice, if you suffer in this way). The other thing I want to comment about is wild bird food. What a task buying it is these days. Every bird, evidently, demands it's own particular mix, and then there are about a million ways of displaying it in your garden. When I was young we just put out stale bread and bacon rinds...but now it is scientifically proven that this is a VERY BAD thing to do! So, getting the food at the garden centre takes at least an hour, and afterwards you have no choice but to slump into the cafe for a relaxing cup of tea (served in very boring tableware, compared to what the birds are offered). Anyway, I went for a very pretty sunflower design hanger to display my RSPB certified peanuts, and some lovely fatfilled half coconuts that were on special offer. Oh yes, I'm sure you're all wondering about my anagram friend. He turned out to be Turkish. I sent him a whoopee cushion, which he liked, but then I tried to bite him with my werewolf application and he removed himself from my Friends list! I don't seem to have lost my identity, but only time will tell....Finally, my driving license appeared. I can indeed drive anything anywhere, but only for the next three years in case I deteriorate. Of course, I'll deteriorate, I thought, doesn't everyone? Anyway, I'm not arguing, I'm just glad to be allowed out again!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Identity Crisis!

Today has not started well. First I had a rather heated hyperspace discussion over the merits of Cox's apples (I don't rate them highly, my adversary did). Then I found that a rather cute looking guy with a Norwegian sounding name had left me a message on Facebook. I replied, only to discover that this means he can access my Profile page for a month. Now, of course, I'm worried sick he's one of those hackers and is going to steal my identity (quite a thought!). I think perhaps his name may be an anagram of something---I'll try to solve it over lunch. Two bits of good news, though, and made me feel that I might have some identity left. First, Spalding Bulbs sent me some correspondence, referring to me, of course, as their Most Valued Customer Of The Last Six Months. By simply ordering something out of their catalogue I can evidently get a free watch, so I've gone for some Chinese Lanterns, which I've always loved. They grow anywhere and can be made into superb Christmas ornaments. Then my E-cloths pack arrived, so now I not only have dishwashers but also kitchen cloths and magnificent tea-towels! Won't my friends all be delighted when they open theirs on Christmas day? And about that other Christmas gift I mentioned. It has been pointed out to me in no uncertain terms that you do not spell pyjamas with three a's. OK, got it now. IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

A Bad Wind...

Oh, Dear Readers, I'm hardly upright this morning after yesterday's events at the allotment. We had barely got to the office where we meet up where we were told that a 'promotional video' was going to be made of our activities that morning. Of course, some of us were a little unhappy about this, as, having been given no warning whatsoever, we'd had no time either to dress for the occasion or learn appropriate dance routines. We were told this wouldn't matter. When we arrived at the allotment, we were told they wanted to film a variety of activities. So all our plans of last week went out the window. I was left planting....guess what? ONION SETS!!! Imagine, dear readers, my humiliation, I'm actually filmed for posterity planting my unfavourite crop of all time...Of course, it could only go downhill from that point. After finishing planting, I was told to set up the tea things so we could be filmed having a pretend planning meeting! Oh, yes, let's go into fantasy land shall we, with a bunch of people suffering from severe mental health conditions? Good idea! Anyway, I started getting all the chairs etc out, when suddenly I saw our leader a few yards away mouthing to me, 'Me back's gone again!' He couldn't move an inch, so I went over to him and started to massage the affected area. At this point the cameraman came towards us filming the whole thing...That was the point at which I lost it. I told him our leader was in pain and needed a chair AND TO BLOODY WELL HELP ME!!! Luckily, at that point we had a new client arrive who had some paracetemol so we were able to help with the pain a bit. So then we continued with the filming of our 'meeting'. I should say at this point that there was a gale force wind blowing straight from the Arctic yesterday. You may have heard about it on the news. Then the pr people ooh'd and aah'd at their lovely photos in our shed...We eventually managed to get our leader back to his car, clear up the mess, and go home...If this doesn't stop you volunteering in your community nothing will.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Cleanliness is next to Godliness...

Please forgive me, reader chickens, but in the excitement to tell you about the allotment this week, I completely forgot my most important news. That is, I have discovered a new way of washing the dishes! To be more exact, I have started to use a washing up pad produced by E-cloth, and it's wonderful! No more nasty little spongy things clogging up endless acres of landfill sites, for me. You can actually wash this little pad in the machine and it comes out just like new...To make matters even better, today I've found their website: and a whole new world of ecological washing products...I've ordered a whole bundle, so I'll be letting you know how I get on with them. What delightful gifts they will make! Talking of which, I have seen a very nice pair of silk pajamas in the Lewis's catalogue WHICH I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE FOR CHRISTMAS. Just imagine how delightful I would look putting out the frogs in the middle of the night with these on....And oh, my goodness, I nearly forgot to tell you the latest about the POND. On cleaning it out (with a net, not with my e-cloth, I hasten to add) I found several delightful new specimens of Aponogeton distachysos, a delightful little plant with white flowers which, up to now hadn't done very much. Now, not only has it spread, it's spread to the most shady parts of the pond where nothing else wants to grow. This is the wonder of tackling a new ecosystem---you learn new things all the time. Before this year I'd never heard of this plant, let alone seen it grow. Go on, get out there, start planning your wildlife pond!

Friday, 2 November 2007

A New Broom...

It's been a tough week. For a start there was Hallowe'en. Guess where I was at 3.00am? Yes out in the back garden (naked!) putting a screaming frog back in the pond. I'll be riding around on a broomstick next...Then there was trouble in psychology class. I've found it increasingly difficult to get my students into the classroom, so much so that I now have to go out on the street where they congregate and pull them in by their hoods. Hence,we usually start at least 15 minutes late. I just about get going on the topic on the lesson, when they're demanding a break. I'm supposed to sit there with them for two and a half hours! You'll recall that before half-term I just had the three students, well now we've been joined by two Nigerian girls. Great, it's a year long class, and they missed half a term....this is private education, where you never say no as this means loss of income all round (well, actually not for me, as I get paid the same, to do 40% more work...hey, wait a minute..). So, having had a week of disorganisation and indiscipline, I decided we'd have a 'planning meeting' with the allotment group. It's the usual muddle. The group leader wants to grow nothing but potatoes and onion sets. One of the clients wants her own plot so she can grow different varieties of beetroot. Another wants to grow nothing but carnations...Finally we had an intricate explanation about why we are not being allowed, under any circumstances, to grow peas...Oh well, I made a plan of the allotment, and stuck lots of things on it. I also wrote an article for the newsletter which I hope I can get posted up for you.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Jellied Brain

You might like to know that I now have 9 friends on Facebook. However, their Superfriends application has just informed me I have zero popularity and am classified as a "wallflower". There's still work to be done then...One other exciting revelation today. I got my "Everything You Need for Teaching Psychology" catalogue from Uniview ( Whoever would have thought one needed 1) Jellied Brain Sweets 2) A Thinking Cap (revealing one's head as uncovered brain tissue), and 3) sets of S-t-r-e-t-c-h Your Students exercises, to teach the subject. And I only have the textbook! I had wanted to order a model brain, but found that theirs were much too expensive. A pity really, if I had spent over £75 I could have had a free Obsessive Compulsive Disorder poster! I thought it was about time I gave you a recipe or two to help you understand just how wonderful having an allotment can be. Here's my farmer's wife winter casserole recipe: Get a medium sized casserole dish. Put one or two pork chops in the bottom. Add any seasonal veg from your allotment. This may be: garlic, onion, carrots, and cauliflower heads. Place a few leaves of sage and one bay leaf (also from the allotment) on top of the veg. Chop up and core an apple (either from the allotment, or brought at Apple Day...). Put this on top of veg. Add about a cup full of water and salt/pepper to taste. Put in oven at Gas Mark 2. Cook for 2 hours. Oh heck, I'll have to go now. I just realised I forgot to put the apple in.

Friday, 26 October 2007

As Chic as Chips

I'm still suffering from my cold this morning! Still, at least I've learned something very important from the Daily Mail---I've got what is called "Geek Chic". I think this means that I'm cute but I also look like I read books. That's me! I also have something to share with you about apples, as my brain accommodated new knowledge about these only in the last week. If you had asked me only a month ago which English apples I considered the best in the land, I would have answered without hesitation, James Grieve and Worcester Pearmain. Little did I know that these two had bred together (branches crossing across a misty orchard....oh, kissy, kissy!) and produced a noble offspring called Lord Lambourne who is even more delicious. So, if you're looking for an apple to plant, that's the one. Anyway, that's enough excitement for one morning. I have to sign off now because I have to tell the allotment crew I'm not coming. This will probably mean a cancellation as the leader is already off with a bad back. (For which his doctor has given him valium, can you believe? Whatever happened to good old Deep Heat and a hot waterbottle...)

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Almost down in the dumps

Wednesdays are always an anticlimax here, but it's worse today because I've caught a cold. This is what happens when you mix with the hoi-palloi! So why are Wednesdays such a let-down? Because the highlight of the week, bin-emptying, happens on a Tuesday in these parts. I've been surprised to hear that in other part of the country this has not developed into the passion shown it in Cambridge. The activities begin the night before when you can hear every resident carefully aligning a large bin and the correctly coloured associated plastic container on the pavement. (Failure to do this can result in non-emptying!). We used to do this on Tuesday morning, but now we've been told we must have both bins ready for inspection at 7.00 am....even if they are not emptied until three in the afternoon. At around 5.30 pm on Tuesday you can hear everyone in the street, having returned from a hard day's work, collecting their bins, rolling them back to wherever they belong, and blessing the day when all these new regulations came into place. These collection activities can be most exciting if it has been a windy day. I once found my plastic container two streets away, and most of its contents (very light, empty plastic bottles), scattered haphazardly in neighbours' front gardens. This week's bin activities were more exciting than ever, as I noticed last week that my green bin was smelling something awful. I went out to clean it, and was just about to do so, when my neighbour warned me off. Several short people like myself, she said, had tried to clean their own bins, fallen in head first, being rescued only on their way to the dump! As luck would have it, I found an ad for a bin-cleaning service attached to the bin yesterday, so now I have signed up for a monthly, professional clean. I must say the errr...newcomers to the area round here are really finding those niche markets...

Monday, 22 October 2007

An Apple A Day...

I expect you' ve been wondering what I've been doing. On Friday I went to the allotment as usual. Getting there was a bit traumatic as I discovered I couldn't turn my windscreen wipers off. To make matters worse I was just demonstrating the problem to the clients when I accidently sprayed one of them copiously with windscreen cleaner fluid (My, that stuff travels!). Anyway I finally managed to find the 'off' position and we got down to planting our Autumn broad beans (very important to plant broad beans in the Autums so that they ripen before the blackfly come out---Aquadulce is the best sort). We also got in some fine pink garlic (much milder than the white varieties) and onion sets. I don't want to say anything more about onion sets as they are tedious. If it was up to me we wouldn't plant onion sets...Anyway the next day I discovered I couldn't turn my battery operated toothbrush off. Spooky! My much toothpaste-soiled Husband and I then argued about what we would do with the day. I suggested Swaffham, as the newspaper said they were celebrating Apple Day at the eco-tech centre there. When we got there the whole place was closed, so we spent the afternoon in Swaffham. An experience not to be missed if you want to pick up some cheap agricultural implements (but not worth it otherwise!). I mustn't be too rude as I picked up a really lovely bay tree for the allotment for under £5.00. I then realised that I hadn't mentioned Apple Day to any of you, and I'd completely forgotten about Blog Action Day---a day when all of us with Blogs were supposed to unite and write something environmental. I can't remember if I did or not....Oh blast! I finally got to the Apple Day at our Botanic Gardens. The queues just to taste a bloody apple had to be seen to be believed! I could barely get near the things, and ended up taking photos of the lovely Autumn colours instead. I've included one for you to look at.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Wogan's Willy and Other Delusions

Sorry not to have communicated for a few days, but I've been in quite a delicate state. Over Terry Wogan's wardrobe malfunction, of course. I didn't see it myself, but a large photo of the event was splashed all over the Daily Mail website (which, I must hastily add, I only visit in order to download the daily Sudoku). Anyway, there it was---too tight corderoy trousers clearly revealing a large, inter-leg dong. It reminded me too much of France, I'm afraid, where I couldn't even drive to the local market without seeing men's penises all over the place. Those Gallic frogs pee anywhere I can tell you, and it doesn't matter who's around. It was enough to drive a menopausal woman mad....And, as we know, I did go mad! Trying to get off this subject I had another frog in the living room today, it didn't pee but it pooped. How interesting this foray into the wildlife world has become! I've never seen frog poop before, let alone scooped it off the carpet. Just think what joys await you if you become an eco-warrior like myself. Oh, by the way, I've just got a new friend on Facebook who thinks he's a website. I'll have to tread carefully there....I'll tell you about my delusions another day, I think. I need a coffee.

Monday, 15 October 2007

More Pills From Dr Jekyll...

I just had to share some fabulous news. I went to the doctor this morning and discovered that in this country you can drive anything you like, where-ever you like, HOWEVER MAD YOU ARE! This is quite a revelation, and will keep quite a few people off the roads from now on, I'm sure...This was good news, but I have to say the doctor himself was acting rather strangely this morning. As he ushered me into his office he muttered 'You can only use this appointment for ONE issue. The reason I'm running late, is that the last patient wanted to discuss THREE THINGS with me!' As we were more or less on time for the appointment, this seemed a slightly odd thing to say. So, I slightly tremulously handed him the results of my last smear test (which I'd had done in France), and said, 'But you said you wanted this'. He brightened up at that point and said I merely had to ask the receptionist for a photocopy so I could take the original home. 'To have it framed?' I ventured. At this point his visage darkened to the point I thought I was never going to get any drugs out of him again! But he turned back to his computer (where he feels safe), and started clicking away. Phew! At this point I squeezed in my enquiry about the driving license, and he told me it was no problem. Then he took my blood pressure which, quite amazingly considering the stressful nature of the consultation, was still normal. I wondered whether I should offer to take his, as he seemed in such a state, but thought the better of it. Came home to find my e-mail full of things for offer via freecycle. One of these being a large number of cds, which, if you've been keeping up with me all this time, you will realise can be used as fantastic garden ornaments. Also they are useful on allotments for scaring pigeons. So, get freecycling! Also, I have a serious point. If anyone else out there, suffering from any kind of mental health problem, wants help dealing with crazy doctors, get in touch. I'll do all I can to help.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Record Breakers?

Phew!! What a day yesterday was. For the first time, I was in charge of the allotment group. What an honour! We had a ceremonial planting of three blackcurrant bushes (RHS Gold Medal Winners no less) in the new, untampered, SOFT FRUIT PLOT. I don't know if everyone really appreciated all my instructions on how to plant a bush, but we were all quite tired at the end of if all and spent most of the rest of the time setting up the tea and biscuit table. The arrival of my new pink car onto the allotment caused quite a stir---I seemed to attract every other allotment owner in the vicinity. Great Jollity and Happimosity was had by all. None of my admirers was quite Monty Don, but there's hope yet. When I got home, and after my usual viewing of Bargain Hunt, I went out and planted ALL the remaining crocuses in my garden. I don't know if so many bulbs have ever been planted in such a small patch. Perhaps I should contact the Guinness Book of Records? I went to sleep as usual dreaming of fame and instant glory. Reading my newspaper this morning (husband is here so he kindly dealt with the frogs in the living room), I noticed an article on which struck me as a very good thing to join if you want to swap leftover bulbs or any other item that you might need or have over from your gardening escapades. I joined this morning. I suggest you do too.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Don't Leave Me In The Slow Lane!

Oh dear, I see from the last posting that Google seems to have selected a colonic irrigation advertisement for its commercial spot...Well, they said they would chose appropriate sponsors! Not much news on the gardening front, as it's pouring with rain. But I did have a very exciting and eventful trip to the post office this morning---to post my application for a new drivers' license if you recall. Well, it transpires that I would have been better going to the post office in the first place and not bothered with the on-line facility at all. The counter lady explained that she could have done the whole thing for me in two minutes for £4, AND she would have happily overlooked the fact that I'd gone a bit mad since having my last licence. As it was I had to pay £9.10 to send everything off in a special envelope (guaranteed next day delivery, except under the present strike conditions when there are no guarantees at all, evidently, but the fee is the same). A friend has e-mailed me to say that Monty Don suffers severe depressions but still drives. This news comforted me until I realised that I personally have never witnessed Monty Don driving anything more powerful than a lawnmower on his shows...What if I'm limited to this for the rest of my life? Then I switched on my computer to discover I was advertising colonic irrigation to the world...

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Thank you all for the overwhelming, hyperspacial response to my plea for friends. I now have a third one. And I've just ordered a set of really nice Vincas from the Guardian newspaper. Now, I know that will upset some of you because you'll say to yourself 'Oh, no not Latin names...How can we ever hope to become gardeners if we don't know any Latin?' Well it's simple, you just associate every Latin word with something crude, and you learn in no time. Vincas is a good case in point. I first learnt about these plants from a friend who said, 'You need to put some Vincas under that tree'. As she was German and pronounced her Vs as Ws and i's as a's, I nearly fell over laughing. It doesn't help that in English they are known as periwinkles. Anyway, because I'm now putting W*nkers in all my shady places (well, perhaps not quite all...). I'm not going to need so many bulbs so these are going to the allotment. How is that going? Don't ask. Yesterday we had two major fruit tree arguments. As I said to one of the clients, gardening with others is certainly a good way to hone up on one's assertiveness skills. Anyway, I stumbled home only to find that the Post Office has gone on strike, so now I may go for months without a license and, more importantly without a residents' parking space for my new car. Yes, my NEW CAR. An absolutely adorable SMART Passion in silver and bright pink. And before you start, it's not really 'new' but heavily recycled---the paint job being an added feature so I can never lose it in a car park. (I don't know if this is a feature of bipolar disorder or just me...).

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Computer Says No...

There is one thing that no-one tells you about starting a wildlife garden---that it will bring out inner resources that you never knew you had. I would never previously have believed that I could get up, calmly clean a mountain of cat sick from my quilt cover, remove a frog suspended from the cat flap (how? you ask yourself), and return to bed with a large cup of coffee all before 7.00 a.m. How was this possible? Well, I received a consignment of seeds yesterday, and I'm still dribbling copiously over their contents (not literally, of course, it is necessary to keep seeds DRY). Next year is going to be wonderful! Actually the week has been irritating in its own way. I've been trying to change the address on my drivers' license. This used to be a simple affair---one simply filled in the new address on the back of the old license and sent the whole thing to the license agency in Wales. Now you have to supply a photo and a whole mass of paperwork. But wait, I hear you say, you can do it all online! That's what I discovered too, so I spent nearly an hour putting my information, including all my passport details, onto their website. Page after page after page...then right after I pressed the final button, it told me that it could not process the photo from my passport and I was going to have to fill in the forms and send them in with a fresh photo anyway. The other thing that got on my wick was the health page. You had to check categories of 'serious health problem' that you had suffered from since being given your license. Well, two years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar 2, for which I take medication, but which I myself do not consider serious. So, the first time round, I didn't check anything. Then I received a warning that if I didn't declare any problems I could face two years in jail! I quickly went back to the original page and checked the 'serious mental illness' category, feeling like the mad woman in the attic. I went back and forth several times, actually, wondering if I should check anything else. For instance, I once got highly queasy in Boots---a reaction, I thought, to the garish Christmas decorations. Perhaps I had undiagnosed epilepsy? At one point I'd checked four categories (one of the symptoms of bipolar 2, incidently, is hypochondria, but this wasn't on the form...). Anyway, in the end I came clean---only to find that this will slow my application for the license even further as it has to be processed through the medical department and my doctor contacted for further information. This doesn't look good, as I've teased this man mercilessly about his inability to prescribe the right HRT treatment for me and the silliness of his own computer...So we'll have to wait, as they say. Does anyone else out there have any information on this? Do they take your driving license away if you are only slightly crazy (and only during the winter months!) as I am? If so, I'll fight to the last....

Friday, 28 September 2007

A Cheery Cherry Planting Day

Well, I'm sure you're all wondering by now how the allotment opening day went. Fine, thank you. Actually the whole day has been somewhat stressful. First I went downstairs to find a frog on the draining board. I let it swim around in the sink while I got my coffee, and then we had to go through the whole charade of the nude trip to the pond again. Afterwards I trod on my glasses, my 'second' pair, though the ones I usually take to the allotment with me (as my first ones are "Miu mius"---huh, eat your heart out NHS subscribers!). On arriving at the allotment I found that the leader had bought two enormous flowering cherry trees which he was planning to have the visiting dignitaries plant in an area which a couple of clients and myself had spent two months clearing for a soft fruit patch. A rather heated discussion followed---the result of which was that I had to dig two large holes for the trees at the far side of the allotment. The weather wasn't pleasant, but the really hard rain only really set in as the dignitaries arrived. I don't quite know how I got mud up my nose but several people alluded to it. We all had our pictures taken pretending to plant one of the trees. And pretending to be VERY HAPPY INDEED about the whole thing, even though by this time we were all soaking wet. The usual pr job. Then tea and biscuits were passed round and polite conversation was made. It was great fun watching the dignitaries trying to figure out which of us could be considered 'mentally ill'----I was talked to very, very, slowly on at least two occasions, and almost felt I should let slip about the petrol poisoning episode last week. But I kept a dignified silence. Oh, by the way, it's now official. I have TWO friends!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

A Lurid Fantasy of Monty Don's Bottom...

I just got an e-mail from a friend informing me that mirrors were once used near ponds to keep herons away. Well, that's certainly not the reason I got mine. I got, well all the gardening mags said it was the trendy thing to do. They are supposed to give my garden endless pleasurable vistas. But what they can give you, as I've just discovered, is a very nasty shock when you're planting your bulbs, as you see your endless rear end reflected to infinity. This never happened to Monty Don! (Actually, I wouldn't mind if it did). Anyway if anyone knows of any herons visiting the Cambridge area, tell them they are most welcome to pop in. Another thing they could do, and you can do, too, is to join up with Facebook and become my friend. I've been on for two weeks and I'm absolutely fed up with being told that I have no friends in the entire Universe! Has anyone else suffered from this, I wonder?

Some Women Can't Multi-Task

There seems to be some confusion about flower size now. When I said 'small' yesterday, I in fact meant 'dwarf'. But in these politically correct times I don't know if one can say 'dwarf', so I thought 'small' would be OK. Obviously it wasn't. So, you need to plant 'height restricted' or 'vertically challenged' daffs. OK now? Can you manage that? The other thing is to plant multicoloured crocuses, otherwise you'll end up with the well known gardeners' yellow jaundice ailment around April. You know, that feeling that if you see another yellow flower you'll throw up. The other big finding I have to report this morning (besides the usual frog in the living room) has been disproving the theory that women can multi-task. I did this by gargling with my new disclosing mouthwash whilst trying to sort the laundry. It was a messy business, I can tell you. But isn't this new mouthwash fascinating---the way you can see all your germs coagulating in garish hues in the sink? Or all over the walls, if you've just disproved a famous psychological theory....

Monday, 24 September 2007

Virginia Creeper Crashes in Heavy Winds!

Wouldn't you know it? It all happened again last night. Frogs in the living room. I'm learning about frogs, I can tell you. And the first thing I've learnt is that they don't learn. Not one whit. You would think by now they would have some association in their tiny brains between being put in the plastic bucket and returning to the pond. But no, they leap out of the bucket to behind the bookshelves where it is almost impossible to dislodge them. And the squeaking! You would think I was hurting them instead of just gently nudging them from behind with a rolling pin (hot tip that). Anyway, reading through yesterday's gardening tip, I think I may have confused you by mentioning big bulbs. Yes, you do want big bulbs, but if you have a small garden you definitely want small daffodils, otherwise they will look silly. Also, try to find daffs that have a scent. Again Spalding bulbs are great for this. My priority for the garden, after the wildlife features is scent, as this is what I enjoy most about flowers. (I decided long ago that all flowers look nice, but only a few smell nice). So all around the fences I've planted heavily scented climbers and bushes. Except of course where I've gone for autumn colour! I piled in two prize winning Virginia Creepers too---one of which I planted (rather cleverly, I thought) in the grass collector of an old lawn mower I found in the shed. Very much 'in the vernacular' as Gertrude Jekyll would say (yes, honest!). But I'm afraid Mr 'In The Vernacular' keeps falling over as lawn mower collectors are not very stable. He's gone over again this morning after heavy winds in the night and does NOT look happy. So much for being clever...

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Frogs Ruin Elvis Lookalike Competition

Well, what I was going to write this morning has been almost totally obscured by the events of last night! I was just get comfortable, ready to watch the Elvis lookalike competition on BBC1, when a frog appeared in the living room (closely followed by a cat). A short interlude followed whilst a very fat lady was seen sprawled out on the floor trying to get the aforementioned frog in a plastic bucket so it could be returned to the pond. I'd only just sat down when the same thing happened...and it kept happening. To the extent that this morning I'm exhausted and I'VE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO WON THE ELVIS COMP. I tell you this wildlife thing is no picnic. Anyway my main horticultural tip for today is to remind you all to buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer! As Alan Titchmarsh himself demonstrated only a few weeks ago on the Beeb, small daffodil bulbs produce only one flower (at best) per bulb, whereas large ones can produce three...I get most of my bulbs from Spalding, which is the centre of bulb growing in the UK. You probably don't know that Spalding holds the most fantastic bulb festival every spring which is as good as anything you'll see in Holland, but we Brits are not good at advertising such things. I've already planted by snake-headed fritillaries and am waiting for some rain to get my crocuses and daffs in. The fritillaries are good because you can plant them in partial shade and boggy bits and they still come up good.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Mental Health Patients Nearly Poisoned by Allotment Volunteer

Yesterday was allotment day again, and I made a mega-mistake. I washed all the mugs out with petrol! How on earth did you manage this, you ask yourself? Well, the petrol was in a washing up liquid bottle, brought for that day by the group leader to fill the lawn mower. So, I could have poisoned the 'vulnerable adults' in my care, or at the very least made them highly combustible. Luckily I realised my error and cleaned everything up before anyone drank anything. But surely you should have smelt the petrol, you say? Well, yes, I did think the smell was odd, but I thought that was down to it being very cheap washing up liquid, and decided not to make a fuss. You see, I was taught very strongly that one should never, ever MAKE A FUSS...and this is why I often keep quiet when I should speak up (like most Brits...). Only other news was that my strawberries, so lovingly planted last week, had wilted badly, due to the dry windy conditions. I do hope something manages to stay alive for next week's opening. I got home to find the crocus bulbs I'd ordered have arrived so I've now got 100 bulbs to plant in the area of an egg cup. Should be interesting.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Stark Naked!

Well, another exciting start to the day. I woke up to hear plaintive mewing coming from downstairs. Oh no, not another cat! I flew downstairs to find my two cats cornering something in the living room. A creature that looked like no other. I switched on the light to find it was a frog spewed out on the carpet. I got a plastic container and shunted it in, to find to my delight it was still alive. (It hadn't croaked! Get it?). So, even though I was stark naked, I hurried out to the pond and put it back in. It swam away in no apparent difficulty, so I think it will be all right. (I'll post a picture of me today, so you don't get too excited about the thought of me stark naked). Anyway, all this excitement has quite put me off my stride, as I was going to tell you about how exciting my visit to church was yesterday, on account of the pastor talking about life changes, which is something I wrote a book about two years ago. I really want to get this book published, but don't know where to start. It contains a new theory of human development which combines current psychological research with Biblical teaching. Yeah, really! It's not that bad, honest. Anyway, I've given the pastor a copy of the manuscript. (Poor man, I hear you say).

Friday, 14 September 2007

Strawberry Fields Forever

Just got back from the allotment, where I volunteer for a local mental health charity, absolutely exhausted after planting a few strawberries. I don't think it was the strawberries that caused the exhaustion as trying to organise the drinks and biscuits for everyone (well just 6 of us actually!). Um, perhaps that wasn't it either...I think it was because I'm trying so hard to get ready for our official opening in two weeks time and feel there is so much to do, when most of the people who turn up immediately seem to show a deep aversion to gardening---one can't say anything, of course, because we are all, including myself, EXTREMELY SENSITIVE. Honestly, by the time I get home I feel totally shattered. Still at least everyone looked happy when they got back in the car and we all got a good share of fresh veg and some fruit. I was approached today by the pr woman asking me if I would appear in the local papers as someone with mental health problems. I said it wasn't a good idea, as I preparing to beam everything about myself to the far reaches of the universe on the internet instead. She said she quite understood. My teaching yesterday went quite well. The students seemed quite accepting of the fact that I was dressed in a pair of bright red devil's horns and large reflecting sunglasses for part of the lesson---though they did mention that this rarely happens during class in Bulgaria.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The fur is flying!

Well, yesterday was an exciting one! On Wednesday night, I woke at 1a.m to the sound of terrible screaming. Big Tabby had entered the house and was attacking Roland Garros on the living room floor. He ran out when he saw me, of course, but we were all visibly shaken. Luckily I have some liquid valium (I'll let you know more about my collection of drugs later!) so I took a few drops to ensure a good night's sleep. I had a lot of fur to clear up the next day in the living room before heading off to my first psychology teaching for 6 years. Boy was I nervous! Luckily the little group that turned up were great (2 Bulgarians and a Khazak---sorry if that's spelt wrongly). I feel at the cutting edge of European integration now. It turned out I had a lovely teaching room, next to the oldest Church in Cambridge and within view of King's College (in fact I could see the room where I spent my second year as an undergraduate---a very poignant moment). I was exhausted when I got home but my little garden looked a treat and I sat out enjoying the sun almost until the England v. Russia match.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Beware flying cds!

My biggest news this morning is that two of the cds I suspended by string from the tree in the garden blew down yesterday. Moral: use wire next time. Yesterday I also tried to position the white water lily I'd bought at the weeked---a perilous task as it turned out (not for nothing does Louise Bardsley tell you in no uncertain terms to position your deep water floaters before you put the water in the pond---what she didn't mention though is that this time of year is particularly good for getting bargains in pond plants at your local garden centre). Anyway it is now at the bottom of the pond, the right way up, though unfortunately the leaves are still under water. I'll keep you posted on its progress. Oh yes, someone mentioned to me the expense and ecological 'sin' involved in using bricks for your garden patio and walls. Let me just say that firstly I recycled all the old bricks that were already in the garden when I arrived and then the builders sources further recycled bricks for me. So I'm clean! My cats (who are both French, by the way, and only recently arrived from France) are somewhat worn out this morning having been chased all over the street and back alley by an ENORMOUS tabby. Poor Tiger Woods was so upset he brought up all his biscuits...I'll have to go now as I have to start teaching tomorrow, and I have to prepare my lessons. I heard on Friday that none of the textbooks and other resources I ordered have arrived! C'est la (teaching) vie!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Super High Technology Lights!

Ooh, I forgot to mention. Another thing I didn't stint on was the wonderful solar lighting system---you can see one of the lights in the picture. These are great because it means you can sit outside in the evening watching the moths etc. I also got a solar powered fountain in the shape of a lily leaf which works well and helps aerate the pond. While I'm at it. Two other things. I painted all the fencing and the shed to make the garden look bigger and 'softer'. Also I got some large mirrors with pine frames cheap in a market,painted these up the same colour as the fencing and placed them in the corners. Now the size of my garden is endless!

Making a wildlife garden

OK, so how did I do it? Well the first thing I did was buy "The Wildlife Pond Handbook" by Louise Bardsley (ISBN 1 84330 111 3) and I read it very carefully indeed! I employed professionals to dig out my pond and lay the bricks as I wanted a large area of the garden (over 70% of it!!) dug out. Using Louise's book, I ordered my native pond plants from Merebrook Pond plants---excellent value as most of the plants cost less than £2.50. I raked out the back areas and planted a selection of wildflower seeds---some to attract birds, some butterflies, and one lot for 'shady areas' (all Sutton seeds). I tried to get everything I could either free or at very reduced prices---hence I visited the dump, scoured out our old shed for possible planters, and took advantage of money off offers in magazines and papers. I particularly recommend the BBC publications for this. I dug out mature plants from overgrown allotments (with permission!) to fill in any bare patches.What I didn't stint on though was the quality of the climbers that I planted around the wild section. Here I went for bright autumn colour and strong scents. I made sure that everything I bought had gained an RHS gold medal and I planted each with great care, digging in plenty of organic matter as the soil in my garden is poor (and the builders had removed all the top soil!). My plan now is to plant bunches of fragrant miniature narcissi--of course I have got the bulbs on special offer (BBC publications again!). I'd love to here your comments about this.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

sunday in the garden

Well, here we are Sunday 9th September. I've just been messing around in the garden. My latest thing is using all the free trashy cds we get in the daily newpapers as reflectors. They are really beaut, as they don't just act as mirrors but also reflect wonderful rainbows. By the way, I'm an avid recycler. I try not to spend any money on pots in the garden but use anything I can get hold of---I've found the dump very valuable in this respect. I've also found that one can get really nice specimens of wildflower plants from allotment sites (it being illegal to take them from the 'wild'). I'd be happy to share with anyone any other money saving gardening tips!