Saturday, 27 December 2008

It is better to give than to receive...Ha!

What would you think about a husband who gave his wife a grey paperback entitled 'How to Store Your Garden Produce' as his main gift for Christmas? Well, I can tell you what I think, "B*st*rd!" I can tell you, quite frankly, that despite the Centre for Alternative Technology calling this book "a great gift for any gardener", it most certainly isn't. It's about the most boring bloody book I've ever seen. It seems so unfair when I'd bought him a delightful MP3 player, a portable steamer, AND a radio controlled helicopter ('toy of the year' according to some sources). Other members of my marital family seem to think, with one mind, that what I need is a good wash, as I received very little other than bars of soap from them (despite offering them acres of hospitality and free parsnips). Solid soap's useless to me as I use the liquid kind. I was determined not to get depressed this Christmas, but I can tell you that by Boxing Day morning my mood was very black indeed. Perhaps it wasn't surprising, therefore, that I 'accidently' set light to my place setting before lunch ( I had been lighting candles and put what I thought was a burnt out match down before leaving the room), causing a major fracas amongst the relatives, as a napkin, and an entire place mat were engulfed with flames. I felt better after that...

Friday, 19 December 2008

International Disaster

I'm pretty exhausted today, as I've just finished placing my nativity sets around the new house. I should explain that I have around 25 nativity sets from around the world, most of which had not been unpacked since our move from France over two years ago. So first of all I had to unpack them all from their shoe boxes. My desk soon took on the appearance of a multinational refugee camp with fighting Kings, sobbing Mary's, and abandoned baby Jesus's all over the place. Took me ages to sort it all out, I can tell you. Everyone's in their correct family unit with no cultural differences to worry the social services about. The only disaster was I accidently ripped the head off an Equadorian angel. But I have a spare! (Angel not head). All this on top of missing my first visit from the bin men this morning. How can this have happened, you ask yourself? Well, I forgot they come A DAY EARLY on Christmas week. This can happen to the best of us, even those who collect considerable amounts for charity....ok, ok, I can't wait to tell you, I collected over £50 in my box more than a tenth of the sum total for the whole day. How's the new house? Wonderful. Just a few minor teething pains. Like the central heating going off every day and a distinct lack of hot water (did I tell you about our state-of-the-art solar panels?).

Thursday, 11 December 2008

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Oh Lord, I feel I've been letting you all down with my absence again. But I've been so busy what with the house move and all. Not to mention fund-raising again for my charity. I discovered this year there was an opportunity to collect money in the city centre with carol singers. So, I said I'd go as long as I could sing. When I mentioned this to the snobby woman on the phone she said, 'Oh nooooo, you caaarrnt do that. We have some of the most professional of choirs coming' 'Can I hum?' I said, promising to arrive at 9.30 sharp. So I arrived, and she of the starched grey hair said, 'You said you were coming at 11.00' No, I said, 9.30. She sent me away until 10.00. I returned and joyfully took my can and overalls. I was soon in the swing of things, chasing shoppers up and down the mall and covering small children with stickers. Mrs Starchy told me to stand quietly by the pillar. I had a pretty dull half an hour collecting absolutely zero money, when who should arrive but my friend from the Manic Depressive Society. He got bored after about two minutes and, putting the collecting can on his head, started to mimic slitting his throat. At this point I asked the choir whether they took requests, and asked them to sing something a bit more upbeat (they'd been doing some awful, depressing stuff in four part harmony). So we had a rousing rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas with me and my friend dancing and singing at the tops of our voices. We soon gathered quite a crowd and the money really started rolling in! At 11.30 I had to go as I was meeting H in town, so I told Mrs H of my immanent departure. 'Oh you can't possibly do that' she said, 'We only leave on the hour...' I said, just watch me, and left. I hope I leave you all well. I might not be around for a bit as I'm finally moving house tomorrow and I'm not sure about my internet connections...But I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Blood, Sweat and Tears?

Nearly didn't have time to write again this week. But I felt I had to say something about my MOMENTOUS NEWS. Our team ('Blood, Fish and Bone') won the local allotment society's quiznight challenge! OK, so we were almost beaten to the finish by the local dog training team, but it's results that count. We are going to have our name engraved on the challenge trophy (a large trowel), and have our picture taken. Yes, again. It hardly seems possible, does it? Actually, the allotment group really has been going well. We're produces loads of stuff. This week, as well as handing out produce to all our volunteers, I also managed to pack a large hamper for the A.G.M. no less. Evidently, it was much admired, and raised £40 in the raffle! Just as well I've something to be cheerful about, as the new house is proving somewhat of a stress factor. We've all kinds of workman clambering over it at present trying to make it halfway habitable. The latest setback is the solar power engineer informing us that in its current state the water cylinder could give us all Legionnaire's Disease! As much as I like to commemorate Remembrance Day, this isn't exactly what I'd planned...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Icelandic Meltdown

Sorry not to have written. I've been really busy with the new teaching term, and things have been going so well at the allotment, that I've really not had anything to write about! But today that has all changed, as I've just been noted that my esteemed Council has been putting all my hard earned Council Tax into Icelandic banks. Gordon Bennett! Things had already been hotting up in that department, as only two weeks ago I applied for a renewed Resident Parking Permit plus two Visitor Parking Permits (for H). When the letter arrived the Visitor Permits were nowhere to be seen. This meant dashing off another letter, of course. Anyway, I'd just received a letter from the Head of Customer Relations apologising for the oversight and enclosing my permits, when I heard the appalling news about the whereabouts of my Council Tax! Frankly, it has been a taxing week on all fronts. On Monday, Roland Garros went missing, only to return at 5.30 am (yes, I was waiting up for him, and yes, teaching the next day was rather difficult.) Then, yesterday I went to pick up two parcels at the Royal Mail and the git behind the counter almost refused to give them to me because I had not brought the square of cardboard with me that had been shoved through the door. I was then very surprised to find that the parcels were not the garlic and daffodil bulbs I was dressed to plant (perhaps this was why the Royal Mail employee treated me with so little respect?) , but a couple of QVC purchases I was trying to hide from H. So, I went up to allotment anyway and tried on my new trousers and jewelry. Well, we all need something to cheer us up in these difficult times...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Turkish Bizarre...

I know I don't normally communicate with you midweek. But I'm all of a tingle. Why? I have just won second prize in an agricultural show. The mis-shapen vegetable contest! At last, I've found my true, really, it wasn't me, it was my Turk's Turban Squash that got the honour. Rather pathetically, we came second to a potato, but you can't have everything. Actually, you can't have very much at all off my allotment this week. Just about all the seeds I planted two weeks ago (whose, appearance, I very much regret to say, I boasted about last week) have been killed off by flea beetles. Today, I was up there yet again, preparing yet another seed bed, this time hoping to grow some spring cabbages. This time I'm using free seeds from September's Grow It! magazine. And I tell you, I'd be only too happy to Grow It if something else didn't keep coming along to Eat It! Ohh, but I also have a hot tip. I needed something to protect my little Brussel Sprout plants from the cabbage white butterfly, and I found it! I unravelled an old Body Shop Bath Lily (a strange round thing made out of some kind of netting), cut the strip down the centre and voila, a perfect net! It's now held in place by a series of those little windmills that children play with at the beach and some pebbles. The whole thing looks quite high tech, like a miniature wind farm. Back in the garden things are beginning to take off too. The QVC begonias have started to flower and the pond is bursting with life. Wouldn't it be lovely now, to get some summer weather?

Thursday, 31 July 2008

And the rest fell on good ground...

My word! Yesterday's post actually generated a query about what I'd been planting. Obviously, my previous conviction that there's nothing more to be done in an allotment as August approaches is a widely held assumption...this is precisely why Grow Your Own has a late summer seed promotion. Well, I've planted Swiss chard, radicchio, turnip, swede, Autumn carrot, Chinese leaves, and Japanese spinach. And they've all started to come up already! This is just as well, as the mizuna and rocket I'd grown on the back patch were overwhelmed by flea beetle. I just couldn't keep the ground damp enough. I know what I'm going to do, though. I'm going to plant a dastardly mix of Japanese salad leaves which absolutely nothing will touch with a barge pole (including, humans, incidently, if you're not careful to remove the more volcanic mustard varieties from the mix before they reach the table. H nearly had convulsions one supper time last year...). Then I'll just prize the mizuna leaves out. Ha! Anyway, back to the plot... We've also planted little cabbage, purple and white sprouting broccoli, and, wait for it, brussel sprouts! Why the exclamation? Because our Esteemed Leader banned us from planting these as he said they never grew well in our county. But Patrick said that's nonsense. So, we're going ahead, but we're pretending that the crop is Japanese Walking Stick Plants. What extraordinary subterfuge! And I've got a little line of kale too, which EL absolutely detests...We can expect fireworks, and well before November 5th, I fear. And I should mention too, that we are cropping regularly now. We've got an abundance of lollo roso (red lettuce, to you chum), tomatoes, and courgettes, not to mention the squashes just pouring out of the Victorian hotbed. And if all else fails, there's always more potatoes...It's a pity about all the hard work, though. I'm aching from top to toe today.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

And some fell on stony ground...

Sorry not to have kept you up-to-date. Truth is, things have been pretty tiring round here since Patrick arrived. For a start, he's insisting that we continue to grow things all through the winter! This time last year, when things got a bit hot, we all mutually decided we'd had enough, covered the allotment with black plastic sheeting, and enjoyed weekly chats about our drug side-effects. But this year, we are planting, planting, planting. Unfortunately, I discovered that the wonderful mag, Grow Your Own, was offering a cornucopia of cheap seeds which the committee agreed I should send off for. I think then there was a decision made, without my knowledge, that I should also plant the seeds and keep them watered...for this is what I've been left doing. As we're in the middle of a hot patch (and I'm having hot flushes on account of my HRT dose being cut!) , this has been backbreaking and time consuming work. On the home front things have been equally taxing. I wake up most mornings to find the remains of some animal or other on the living room floor, and then comes the difficult decision-making process of working out how to sweep up these remains, and, even worse, which bin to put them in. Sometimes it's just all too much, so I make a cup of coffee and go back to bed. I'm in trouble with H again as I discovered that QVC was having a Christmas in July day, during which I made a whole series of quite delightful purchases. To make matters worse, I then went on to buy some wonderful half-price jackets in their fashion outlet sale. H's argument, of course, will be that I don't really need these jackets what with the abundance of black plastic sheeting I now have going to waste. This is a man who regularly goes to Dubai and returns giftless, moaning that there's too much gold in the duty-free shop...What's a gal to do?

Thursday, 10 July 2008


Thought I'd just fill you in on what happened yesterday, as I did actually go to the allotment in the end. You see, by ten o'clock it wasn't raining that hard, and I remembered a couple of people who'd said they were going didn't have keys to the shed, so I thought I'd better make my way there just in case anyone was silly enough to want to garden in the rain. There was no-one else about when I arrived, so I started planting out the last of the squashes that I've been growing on the windowsill. I plant these, if you want to know, in the middle of the runner bean rows, as they like the extra nutrition and the support the beans provide. I'd just finished this when I heard the merry tinkle of a bicycle bell. Who should it be but Patrick, arriving in the now heavy downpour without even a waterproof on. (No that sounds silly, he was dressed, you understand, he just lacked any waterproof outergarments). He'd cycled 15 miles! What a wonderful day for gardening! he proclaimed as he leapt from the saddle. I directed him to the ancient pile of horse manure that needing turning into our winter plot, and he started digging manically. I continued for about half an hour as the rain came pelting down at all angles, gathering in beans, turnips, onions, and even a few baby potatoes. Then I made for the shed where I had a cup of coffee from my flask and surveyed the damage. I was covered in mud from head to foot and my shoes were awash with water. Patrick went on and on and on, only returning at intervals to tell me what a great day it was, and how fabulous our soil is. I started feeling a nasty chill, if not full-blown pneumonia, coming on, and wondered if it would ever end. Suddenly, Patrick asked me what the time was. Mid-day, I said. Great! he replied, that's exactly when I'd decided to stop! And, Praise the Lord, stop he did. Immediately. Everything packed back in the shed in under five minutes. On the way home I stopped off at the charity office. That new man you sent me, I said, dripping muddy water all over their floor and oozing rotting vegetation from every orifice, he's absolutely mad! That's the point, they said. And indeed it is. But you don't expect it, somehow, of the volunteers.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Dyed in the Wool

Today promises enough rain for a month within 24 hours....summer continues, then, and I don't think much progress will be made on the allotment this week. So, I'll talk of other things. Like my visit to the carpet department of the new John Lewis emporium yesterday.(You remember the house I told you about a while back...the one I liked but H didn't? Well, it's now ours...). It was a memorable event. Seeing me tossing samples into the air, an assistant immediately came over (it works every time). What was Madam looking for? A white carpet, I said. That's not possible, he said. You can't have a white carpet because sheep are not white. They may look white, but in fact they're not. They are dirty grey. I blinked hard, and steadied myself on a pile of Axminster samples. But you seem to have the products of blue, yellow and purple sheep here, I noted. That's because you can easy dye the wool those colours but you can't dye it white. I felt my brain start to implode. Surely I was not to be beaten by a mere technicality? But then it got worse. Much worse. The awful man then directed me to....I hardly dare say it....THE SHAGPILES!!! How dare he, I thought. And after I'd taken the trouble to daub myself with Chanel No5 as I passed through the perfume department, too. I glared at him and he scurried away, after showing me the drawers holding the tiny take-home squares. I helped myself to every off white, pure wool and utterly expensive sample I could find and then headed off to the Brasserie for breakfast. Phew, I'd only made it by ten minutes! My waitress (yes, my waitress, I always get very special service in the Brasserie as I order the smoked salmon breakfast...), didn't seem that interested in carpets at first, but I soon had her sitting at my table discussing samples as the other diners (breakfasters?) looked on in disbelief...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

'Tis a Strange Wind...'

Strange goings on continue here. Last week I alerted the Council's environmental rag to my existence as ultimate upholder of all that is green and pure. The very next day my bin and associated box were not emptied. Left on the street for all to see! I'm trying to see this as just innocent coincidence, but it's hard not to be paranoid. What was wrong with my bin? Was it too heavy for the men to balance on two fingers? Perhaps the box contained an un-recyclable item. I know these are both dire offences. Am I the next British citizen to be 'outed' on the six o'clock news? It really got the wind up my tail I can tell you. This wasn't helped by the real wind that was blowing all last week around these parts. So strong it clear knocked my hat off during Royal Ascot. And I was only watching it on the tele. (It's important to do these things in style...Not QVC style, you understand, just style.). The allotment is going well. Our leader didn't turn up once again this week, so we got some work done and no-one suffered dire injury. We're cropping our broad beans, salad items and bunches of herbs. Our strawberries are so sweet and delicious they can be eaten without the need either for cream or sugar. I've cleared the area that was once under our horse manure for winter crops, and am looking forward to darling Patrick returning from his short holiday...

Monday, 16 June 2008

St Patrick's Day

Relax everyone. Despite all appearances to the contrary this blog has not been abandoned! My long silence has been due to a strange, almost otherwordly, happenings at the allotment. We have been blessed with an Angel! This Angel, called Patrick, arrived two weeks ago, and He has transformed my humble life completely. Patrick not only has penetrating blue eyes and muscular tanned legs, but also KNOWS HOW TO GARDEN. Actually not only this, he also gardens with a speed and enthusiasm that would put even a pre-stroke Monty Don to shame. For the first time in months, things are starting to happen. This week, in two hours, he pruned our apples trees, finished planting up a new plot, and found time to provide each of us with a running commentary on all we were doing. When he said I'd done a good job of digging a ditch (lined with cardboard and well-rotted manure to aid water retention) for our borloti beans I wanted to fall at his feet and kiss the earth...This is how it is with Angels. Our leader was away. It was BLISS. Of course H is none to happy about all these goings on. Things between us are tense at present as he has put a total trade embargo on my dealings with QVC. I can only resume when my trade deficit is zero...This shouldn't affect you too much as I'd already bought all the plants for the year, and I doubt that you want to know about all my fabulous wardrobe and lifestyle purchases from that delightful emporium. Suffice to say, I'm now living in somewhat straitened circumstances (I've no idea how to spell 'straitened' because I've never had need of the word before...), with a large hole in my life where my credit card used to be. And this just before the start of Royal Ascot too...What's a gal supposed to do?

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Skating on Thin Ice

It's been a heartbreaking week. First I went up to the allotment on Wednesday and discovered all my courgettes, half my corn, and two of my tomato plants had been killed off by an overnight frost. Then, on Friday, came the news that Monty Don had suffered a mild stroke and will no longer present Gardeners' World. I really didn't want to face my friend to tell her what had happened to her plants. Luckily, she was so sedated she examined the grizzly evidence of the brown muck that was all that was left of her squash plants with admirable aplomb. It was our leader who almost collapsed over the stricken hotbed, mumbling, 'I had no idea, there was no sign of frost in my village.' He reacted like a kind old grandpa, offering to buy me some more courgettes...not even arguing when I insisted these should be not just any old courgettes but the yellow and Italian ones I really like. Finally, of course, there's been the fiasco of the Eurovision Song Contest. Last again! I have to admit here I actually voted for the Russian entry as soon as I realised the iceskater was none other than Evgeny Plushenko who I absolutely adore beyond all measure. Bloody Terry Wogan...yes, he of the Testicular Wardrobe Malfunction... didn't even know who he was! (H and I also liked the Spanish entry as we were following all the dance moves by the end. We both thought it was the best representation of European Culture since the Chicken Song). Anyway, I think the right entry won, so there.
Oh, and another thing before I go. I had an e-mail from James suggesting I grow some carrots between the rows of onions as then they would be protected from carrot fly. James, for heaven's sake, don't you understand anything? I am not allowed to grow ANYTHING between the onions as these are the sole property of our revered leader, who is not at all possessive (unlike me).

Monday, 19 May 2008

All out war!

Don't want to talk about the allotment this week, owing to a major fracas concerning broad beans in which I was accused of i)picking the 'wrong-sized' beans and ii) being overly possessive about beans. It ended with a male person almost getting the 'wrong-sized' beans stuffed up his nostrils (where, quite incidently, far from being the wrong size, they would have been a perfect fit...). No, today I think I'll engage you with my recent trip to Lakeland as I have purchased their new 'biocide' liquid soap, which promises 'all out germ warfare', and one of their kitchen caddies for collecting my kitchen waste hygenically (You can tell I have been left slightly unhinged by H's recent experiences). The latter---kitchen caddies not husbands---are supposed to be offered free by the Council, but the last time I went in and enquired about them (going through every single cupboard in the Environmental Office with the man with the gorgeous Irish accent), there weren't any left. Despite being assured that I would be informed the MOMENT new ones came in, I have never received one. Hence, for the last six months or so, my kitchen has become ever more slippery as it has filled up with organic waste. How fortunate that my bins, with their professional cleaning service, are clean enough to eat my dinner off! And the garden is looking lovely. I'm going to try and upload some more pics onto the slideshow for you. The new clematis looks great as a backdrop for the lungworts and we have some new lush growth in the pond. I've planted some Eupatorium plants. These are supposed to be ultra attractive to butterflies, and love living in damp conditions. They are quite difficult to get hold of, but if you fancy growing them they can be found on the excellent Hayloft Plants website.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

As Sick as a Parrot

Phew. Hardly know where to start this week. First, within two hours of touching down at Gatwick after a trip to Angola, H was rushed to hospital with suspected malaria. A highly tense week ensued during which time I managed to pull the curtain rail down on my head in the living room and detach the bathroom cabinet from the wall, as well buying over 15 items from QVC (one of the symptoms of BP2 is spending money when stressed..). To top it all, we had a local radio reporter visiting the allotment on the Friday. I was highly anxious about this because our leader told me I was going to be the one interviewed and I had to say ALL THE RIGHT THINGS about our charity. As I have never in my entire life said all the right things about anything, I became very jittery but doggedly practised my intended speech all week to Roland Garros who seemed impressed enough to purr loudly at the more dramatic bits ("The week we set out to build the Victorian Hotbed was a particularly difficult one..."). However, when we actually got to the plot our leader hogged the whole thing and I was left parroting out the odd comment in a high wind. As by that time I couldn't even remember the names of the crops I'd planted, I'm sure to come over a complete moron (what's new?). Anyway, it's all come good now, as we've discovered H only has Shigella, which is a bacterial infection that causes dysentery. He's mended the house and complained loudly about the large hole in the bank account. Luckily, I can send all my mania-induced QVC purchases back. This is a good tip for all you bipolars out there...the crazy shopping is probably incurable, so make sure you do it somewhere where you get that 30 day money back guarantee!

Friday, 25 April 2008

The Trial

It was tough on the allotment today. First there was an argument concerning onions. During the week I'd noticed we had very large gaps between our onion rows so I suggested we plant some lettuce and radish seeds in them. Our leader totally pooh poohed this and said we were going to start proceedings by planting more onions. I flipped. No, I shouted, we are not planting more onions. We have enough onions. I'm sick to death of onions. Glaring ensued. So to cool things off I said, why don't we get some more potatoes done? You know how much you like those...And so we continued for a while on a newly dug over piece of plot, he at one end and I at the other. Silently digging ditches with our spades. I did a row, he did a row. I started a second row and then did my watering rounds of all the stuff I now have under the glass of the hotbed and the coldframe while another (much less argumentative) volunteer finished the ditch. I was just bringing over a wheelbarrow of horse manure to put in the ditch (as we all know, when planting potatoes, we dig the ditch, put in the manure, and then nestle the potatoes upright in it) when I noticed our leader was putting his potatoes in without manure. So I said, hey, wait I'll put the manure in. Our leader then straightened himself and said, Don't tell me how to plant potatoes! The manure goes in afterwards...To help things along my friend came up at that point and said, I put the manure in first, but then I put the potatoes really deeply into it, so it's all round them. So it makes no difference, our leader shouted, NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL! To placate him, I said I was sure it wouldn't make any difference...anyway we would soon find out if it did as we had made the perfect experimental trial (possibly the first of its kind in the world): two rows of pre-planting manuring versus two rows of post-planting manuring. Afterwards, over coffee, our leader admitted that I had been right about one thing: we do have enough onions. But I am still banned from planting lettuces between the rows. I'm now trying to persuade my friend to take up her bloody leeks from the far side of the allotment so I can plant some more salad there. Silly woman didn't even know you could freeze leeks. Whatever next?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Bin Laden Caught

I really am all of a quiver this morning after yesterday's top story in the lunchtime news. And although I wouldn't normally write to you twice in a week, I felt I just had to make an exception this time. Did you hear that a man has been convicted of having a bin lid open in public? You think all my wittering about the bin mafia has been a delusion, don't you? But it's all true, I tell you. Other countries have gone about this recycling lark for years, calmly, and with no undue fuss. Here in the UK we are turning energy saving into energy slaving, living every moment in fear that we will be found out for some dire mistake. But why are we allowing ourselves to be sold into this slavery? I blame it on the war, myself. Not the second world war (which we blame for most things), but the war in Iraq. We all know we shouldn't be there and we feel a massive collective guilt in our completely unwarranted decimation of another country. We are full of unbearable guilt, This guilt must be dumped somewhere. Projection. Freud called it. Anyway, what better place to dump than in a bin. Let's suddenly get all hoity toity about saving the world, so we can blinker ourselves to the political devastation we are really causing. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I'm glad that so many people seem to be thinking the same way that I have thought (and acted) for the last 30 years, and, on the other, well aware, that, as soon as the war ends, this country will happily return burying itself in its own put it politely. Yes, I am perfectly OK, thanks, and I'm taking my tablets. Yesterday was a glorious day, and I spent most of it planting parsnips again. But, honestly, do you realise that the poor man mentioned about now has a criminal record which will last for the rest of his life? For leaving a lid open? And was this really an appropriate way for the BBC to celebrate 'Earth Day' on its major news broadcast? Come on all you Wheelie Peelers, give us a break!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Saving Tibet

Did my bit for the people of Tibet this week: I planted four Goji bushes in their honour on the allotment. Once again we're at the cutting age of the Green Revolution here: Goji berries are supposed to have the highest nutritional qualities of any fruit in the world, and they evidently tolerate all manner of mismanagement. I'll try not to get too political here, but just say they should fit right in on the allotment, where, this week, our leader managed to lose all the pink fir potatoes we were hoping to plant. I should say at this point that our shed is currently full of all manner of other potatoes which none of us asked to grow, but which we'll probably have to plant (His back's gone again). One of our clients has decided to take matters into her own hands and has taken over a strip of our secondary plot. Working alone one Saturday morning she got the whole lot dug over and ready for planting----previously two of our men had taken a month to do a tenth of it. It's amazing what sheer frustration and anger can empower one to do! Another fabulous breakthrough: she managed to get us a brand new cold frame through Freecycle (of which I have spoken before). My window sill is now filling up with sweetcorn and I've just set up a little plug plant mini-greenhouse filled with Brussel Sprout seeds to give to another client to grow on (this is one of the advantages of shopping with QVC; a lot of the plants come in these re-useable containers). We all know now we have to fight our leader's obsession with potatoes (especially when he loses the only ones we actually want to plant!). I've been filling the allotment as fast as I can with any seed I can get my hands on: carrots, turnips, parsnips, radishes....They were all free offers in this month's gardening magazines, if you want to know. Two of the mags are offering ten whole free packets... Get out there now while stocks last! There's nothing like poor leadership to test one's survival instinct (it's worth thinking about this...).

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The Pace Quickens

Hardly know where to start this week, so much has happened. This being the Easter hols, I went up to the allotment on my own last week as well as on Friday and planted out an entire salad section, and, dare I say it, peas. You'll remember we've been banned by our leader from growing these, as he things they harbour all manner of dangerous diseases. But I couldn't held myself, especially as I'd found some T&M RHS winners which are supposed to be highly disease resistant. Well, I have to be honest, what really got me going in this direction was seeing Monty Don doing it on Gardeners' World (Doing what? Planting peas, of course. Oh but that man...what I wouldn't do with him behind the potting shed...). I got so carried away, I even went back this week and planted some more, using some discarded metal edging stuff I'd found to make some lovely meandering shapes. Should look very pretty as I can plant the marigolds in the 'loops' of the turns. I had to play it very nicey nicey with our leader on Friday, and even planted out some potatoes for him, as well as politely offering him his coffee instead of half throwing it at him as I usually do (Problem with Authority Figures? What me?). Meanwhile at home I'm busily deadheading all my daffs as well as watching the wealth of plants coming up on my window sill. I now have an abundance of courgettes and some squashes which should be ready to put out in the hot beds in May. I've also started on a sweetcorn variety that promises to perform even in the wettest summers (which is more than I can promise, even with the HRT). In the midst of all this, H and I went collecting again for our charity, this time outside a rather nice upmarket garden centre instead of Tescos, and next day managed to celebrate our wedding anniversary by having a scrummy fish lunch at the Loch Fyne restaurant, after which we went to see a Swedish film called 'You, the Living'. The latter was absolutely hilarious, thought completely incomprehensible. A bit like life really. I wonder how long I can keep up this hectic pace...For those of you wishing to learn about the history of the potato, there is a new website to help you. It's What a read... And you can enter a competition to win an eglu too!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Pass the Parsnips

I'm sure you're all sick to death by now hearing about either i) how cold it is every Friday, or ii) how ill I am, so this week you'll be pleased to know Friday was warmish, and that, apart from having not slept due to over-excitement, I was fit and well. Why the insomnia? Well, I was planning to plant parsnip seeds, and this is always a big occasion. Parsnips are very difficult to grow because they do not germinate easily, so it is necessary to get the planting ceremony absolutely right. It was therefore important that I arrived at the allotment not only with the tea things but also with parsnip, turnip, and radish seeds, a ruler, a magic formula called Spray-and-Grow available only from QVC, and a set of Mayan ritual planting sticks, a Christmas present from H (well, he does try poor thing). And I was wearing a new dark blue Waxed Jacket brought from the Daily Telegraph no less! I was soon flat out on the ground marking out my half inch planting rows on my perfectly prepared plot containing no weeds and not a single stone, whilst my seeds soaked for exactly half an hour in the S-and-G. I then attempted to plant exactly three parsnip seeds every six inches apart. I put a mixture of radish and turnip seeds between the parsnips. (You do this because it takes so long for parsnips to come up that you can plant something else while you're's called catch cropping, I think). It was very delicate work I can tell you, not helped by the fact that parsnip seeds are like teensy flying saucers that seem to stick to anything other than soil, and the little black blips that are turnip seeds fly and drop everywhere whence they immediately become invisible. Paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to the gales (gails?) of laughter coming from behind me (although there was one very nasty moment, I have to admit, when I wondered whether I was suffering from an unidentified Wardrobe Malfunction), I covered the whole thing over and performed a brief dance to the Mayan Frog God of Rain and Fertility before placing my sticks at either end of the rows. The next day it snowed, and we've had sharp frosts every night, so I doubt very much if anything has survived. This, in the UK, is what we call Spring. At least I got the second and the third in the Grand National which has mollified my broken a heart a little...On reflection, I beginning to feel even more strongly that a betting blog may be more up my street that an organic gardening one...Back at home things are even more busy than usual as last week I received 54 tiny marigold 'plugs' from QVC that were in urgent need of potting on. This operation required a complete make-over for the entire house as I only have one suitable worktop of potting on (the top of the washing machine) and one window sill which was already covered with the red carnations I'm growing for one of the clients. You may be interested to know that there is absolutely no reason at all to grow carnations on an allotment, but that marigolds make a fantastic natural pest barrier. I can guarantee you will not be attacked by a single carrot fly if you are surrounded by marigolds! Anyway, the carnations have stayed put, and the marigolds are in three inch pots inside a smart zip-up plastic covering, commonly used to pack bedding. I think this should make a really effective, temporary 'cold frame' which is what the seedlings need. Oh, yeah and I've also made two hanging plastic planters into which I've put a hardy variety of strongly scented pansy, and the first known downward pointing (but still fragrant!) sweet pea. These are now dangling somewhat precariously from a curtain rail in the spare room. You can get all this stuff from Thompson and Morgan, by the way.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Another horrendous day weather-wise, too wet and windy to attempt anything at the allotment. So, I thought I review this week's gardening ventures instead. Not only did I manage to plant 8 more Crocosmia and my three inch high Japanese maple (not all free gifts are that wonderful...), I also cleaned out the pond. I know you'll be aching for the fascinating details, so here goes. I cleared the blanket weed using an old broom handle and the Canadian pond weed with a seive, and then removed all floating debris with a gloved hand. Then I sat back in my little wooden seat drinking my morning coffee. As luck would have it the sun came out, so I was left gazing at the glistening reflections of my daffs and my little statue as the birds twittered merrily overhead. Oh how lovely it is to have a pond, even in the depths of winter it's so much more interesting than a mass of shingle. William Blake may have been able to see the universe in a grain of sand, but I sure can't. Give me instead some Pre-Raphaelite watery depths! Suddenly Ophelia was floating amongst my dead reeds (my pond is a little on the small side to fit a copiously dressed adult woman in, but you have to remember they were smaller in those days...) Feeling soothed and strengthened, I at last ventured indoors to find I had received a Newletter from Spalding Bulbs (you'll remember that I am a Most Valued Customer). This was also offering advice about spring cleaning ponds. It said that if you had allowed any soil to enter your pond over winter, you must take up the entire pond and start again! Knowing full well that at least a ton of God's earth had slid that way only last month, I felt doomed. Surely I wasn't going to have to put up with the builders and their awful jokes all over again? Then I realised they were concerned because soil in the pond turns the water green, but I know I already have the antidote to that: it's Nishikoi Goodbye Green Water and it comes in delightful green buckets, which, if you recall, are so useful for removing frogs from the living room. Well, they used to be. I'm afraid I have now to admit to a sad fact. I found one of the frogs last week, its back legs poking out from under the washing machine, dead. And no, it hadn't been harmed by the cats. I think it was just unable to reverse (an awful evolutionary lack, like the intelligence thing). I've been very sad about this, especially since this week I found eggs laid by Mrs Frog in the water. Even though sex isn't up to much in frogs (just a quick grope under the armpits with the swollen finger pads, if I remember correctly from O-level biology), she must have missed at least the ceremony of the yearly mate. Unless God intervenes with an Immaculate Conception, I guess this means I won't be having tadpoles this year. Life in the Wild is so tough! Oh by the way, there's a new RHS website that offers a lot of advice on building a pond (I wish I'd known about it before I turned my back garden into a mud bath...), as well as being a wealth of information on wildlife gardening---it's

Friday, 21 March 2008

The Byrds

I'm sorry to have to report a serious error made in this blog only a week or two ago. You may recall, that, thanks to advice from an ardent ornithologist, I advised you all to put Niger Seeds out for the birds. It turns out these are not Niger but Nyjer...Well how was I to know my expert was dyslexic? Anyway, this news is brought to you thanks to an excellent little publication "Thompson and Morgan: The Bird Care Collection, 2008 edition" (also available online at ). What a treasure trove this is...and a wealth of information! For instance, did you know that Robins prefer backless boxes, whilst tits go for Birch Logs? Or that you can buy a feeder designed specially for Nyjer seeds: the Nyjer Challenger Feeder? This indeed is the way to ensure that Goldfinches and Siskins have a 'comfortable' eating experience. La Piece de Resistance, however must be the Bird Lodge on the back page, offering 'three feeding aspects in one' ie peanut and seed feeders as well as a water dish (hey, but surely, if you call it a Lodge, there must be somewhere to stay for the night?). Anyway, all this has left me feeling that no bird in its right mind will want to nest in the rather elaborate miniature log cabin that we erected on the allotment during Nesting Box Week. What will set up house there I wonder...A set of line-dancing harvest mice...? OK, so why all this tittle tattle, you ask. It's too bloody cold to go out, that's why! It's Good Friday, and I was supposed to be going to see Jesus getting crucified in the market place (should think He'll catch his death of cold, poor sod...). But I really can't face going out. No allotment either of course. But more and more baby plants are arriving on my doorstep. They need potting on, but I've nowhere to keep the bigger pots here. Tomorrow we're expecting heavy snow, H isn't coming until Sunday, and I'm running out of food....Help!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Bin Laden

I don't believe it. 8.00 am and I'm up! Of course, it's because it's a Tuesday, so I'm under a GREAT DEAL OF PRESSURE. Those of you who are old hands at this blog will realise this is because it is bin day. For all you newcomers I'll now try to give some kind of impression of what green living is really like at the coalface, as we say. Round these parts we have large black and green wheelie bins plus two open plastic containers. Collections take part every other week. The Council tells us we must put one bin and one container out each week and have them ready on the pavement directly in front of our houses by 7.00 am. (This despite the fact that no-one usually arrives until at least 9.00). OK, you think, put them out the night before. Well, this is FROWNED UPON ( in case blind people are walking up the street, I kid you not...), plus if it is windy it causes the contents of the containers to be strewn across the street the next day. Consequently each Monday evening you can hear the residents manfully wheeling their bins into a position just behind the collection point ready for the full assault at dawn. Experience has taught me that leaving a bin a foot out of place causes it to rest unemptied....(See previous entrees for dire results of this). When we all arrive home after a hard day's work, the first thing we need to do is search for our bins and containers, which can be anywhere and in any position in the surrounding neighbourhood. And for this I pay full Council Tax, even though my husband is only here at weekends! Yes, I'm bitter....and growly this morning because, once again the chemist got my HRT prescription wrong. Blimey, if I took the pills they gave me I'd grow breasts the size of the biomes at the Eden Project ( :a jolly good GREEN place to visit, incidently). Anyway, what is so incredible, is that round here we are all playing this bin game with 100% obiedience to the crazy rules. If we're prepared to go this far, I think it shows we ordinary folk really do care...

Monday, 17 March 2008

Winning Ways

What a weekend! On Saturday H and I went to view a house that I'm mad keen on but he wasn't sure about. Sunday was all about WINNING HIM ROUND. It was a weird day actually. Just as I entered church one of the wardens swept past me, shouting, 'I'm sick of being treated like a complete moron. It's too bloody loud, I tell you! I'm leaving!' Problems with the music evidently. Of course, everyone was shaken, and some in tears, so it made carrying on with the service (wildly celebrating Christ's entry into Jerusalem) a bit tough. But we soldiered on. Husband, too, was blustery and irritable, as all misgivings he had about the house were firmly put aside. I blame it all on this awful stormy weather we've suffered all week. Not a single client turned up to the allotment on Friday. Depression seemed to be hanging over all of us. Our leader was wingeing on and on about how mouldy the potatoes sold to him by the Head of the Allotments (whom I call The Curmudgeon) are. I kept telling him, 'Look you need to talk to her about it...there she is over there..' He pretended he couldn't see her. Still sore from the telling off she gave him about his fire last week. Anyway, myself and another volunteer managed to finish the largest hotbed, and clear another area ready for some asparagus I've ordered. You'll be pleased to hear the cutting-edge laundry basket hotbed has produced a great display of coriander. So it works! The garden's looking great---the slideshow hardly does it justice. The Vincas are producing a lovely carpet of mauvy-blue in the darkest corner, and the scented narcissi near the house are just lovely. Oh, nearly forgot to tell you, I got the winner in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and third in the Gold Cup so won a nice sum of money. Another hot tip for those of you trying to feed your gardening addiction on a limited budget. Would you all be more interested in a betting blog than an organic gardening one, I wonder?

Monday, 10 March 2008

A Blustery Day

Golly, what a day! Severe weather warnings across the country. My little garden is in the midst of a whirlwind. Bits flying everywhere. Guess what was the first to go? The silly bird seed bells, of course. So much for conservation. But wait, I hear you say, what happened on the allotment on Friday? Lots. First of all I found my dear friend had taken an overdose since I had been away and had spent some time in intensive care. (Yes, folks, what we do on this allotment, is actually serious stuff: we are dealing with very vulnerable people). Anyway, she was, as you can imagine, not feeling too bright, and certainly did not want anything to stressful to be happening around her. We started quietly filling in the largest Victorian hotbed as she told me what had been bothering her. Suddenly, we became aware that, on the other side of the allotment, and very close to where one of our neighbours had placed his new shed covered with plastic sheeting, flames were leaping into the air. Our esteemed leader had chosen to set light to an enormous pile of rubbish in a high wind. Fellow gardeners, thinking that such a conflagration could only have been started by one of the mad members of the group, ran to our plot in horror. My friend and I hid in our ditch and contemplated covering ourselves in the rest of the soil so that no-one would notice us. I tell you, our leader is embarrassing at times! Luckily, the flames failed to reach the plastic by inches and within half an hour or so the blaze was in hand. Later, over coffee I asked our leader what on earth had possessed him to light a fire in such conditions. "I don't know", he said, "I wasn't going to light it until next week. Then suddenly, I though, why not?...The next think I knew I had the matches in my hand and...." After that we sipped our drinks in silence.
There's nothing like horticultural therapy at times, I can tell you. Oh by the way, I hope you like the new slideshow of the garden. I just wish I could call it something else other than 'slideshow'. If anyone knows the secret of this, please tell me.

Monday, 3 March 2008

I left my brain in San Francisco...

Another week passed with no allotment trip! This week I have been suffering from a heavy cold. I was still ill at the weekend, and by this time absolutely frantic that my feathered friends were expiring in their thousands just outside my window...I tried to put this across gently to H, who said I was being absurd. I insisted he pay a visit to the garden centre and gave him an extensive list of the modern wild bird's nutritional needs, which (thanks to recent e-mail activity with a keen ornithologist) I now realise includes a ready supply of Niger Seeds. He said he would return with a set of the cheapest fat balls. If these were good enough for the wild birds in southern France he said, they were good enough for here. He returned about an hour later, somewhat discheveled (it was Mother's Day, and things had evidently been frantic in the garden the way, any advise on spelling 'discheveled' will be gratefully received), carrying a pack of coconut shells and two enormous bell-shaped objects, like the things you put in budgie cages but about 1000 times bigger. I commented that this seemed a very different purchase to the one he'd suggested, and, typically, he then tried to pretend that he hadn't gone completely mad in the shop, but had retained his Left Brain Logicality at all times. The bells, he explained would attract a Completely Different Sort Of Bird to the garden. Well, he's hung them up and I'm waiting for CDSOB to turn up. I just hope I don't get done for growing marijuana plants which is what happened the last time I put up 'interesting' wild bird food (I kid you not!). This morning, trying to preempt the snow which is evidently going to bring the entire country to a halt later in the day, I went out and planted some Lily bulbs. Evidently these can be planted in shady places as long as their flowers get some sun, so I'm hoping they do ok in a rather dark corner I have next to a clematis which has similar needs. They are in keeping with my theme of having very light flowers round the outside of the garden to make the place look a bit bigger. They are also supposed to be highly scented. Ohh, I can't wait..what with this and the marijuana, this promises to be a summer of lu-uv!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Pond Ponderings

Didn't go to the allotment on Friday as I had a bout of TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint problem if you must know!), probably brought on by my over enthusiastic activities with the steam cleaner. But this gives me the chance to talk more about what this blog was supposed to be about in the first place: turning a tiny space into a wildlife garden as cheaply as possible. I'm now reaping the rewards of last Autumn's endeavours. You will recall that then I bought some scented narcissi and a big bag of crocuses. My careful purchasing techniques meant that in doing this I received 50 miniature narcissi free and also got a cute wooden wheelbarrow also stuffed full of free bulbs. Well the freebies have really taken off and I wash-up each morning facing a golden glow. The rest are not far behind, so Spring is full of promise. Those of you not familiar with my blog can see from the banner picture that it seems to consist of little else other than a pond. There were several reasons for this. If you read anything, anywhere about wildlife gardens you will learn that having a pond makes more difference to the numbers and variety of wildlife attracted than any other single feature. Also I visited my local Botanic Gardens and discovered that there is a fear that in the future this area will be subject to drought and that many of our native species will die out. Their suggestion for overcoming this (and saving water) was the planting of a 'dry' garden. Feeling that preserving our native wildlife is of paramount importance, I was horrified by this and decided to make a sustainable 'wet' garden: a large water-butt was my first purchase! Thirdly, most of the houses where I live are 'buy-to-let', the lettees being students. Most of the landlords, being horrified at the state the students leave the gardens, have either shingled or concreted over the back yards, thus making it impossible for any wildlife to thrive. I decided to to make my wet garden attractive yet sustainable and robust enough to withstand the worst attacks of possible student neglect! So anyway, I've been doing this for the last year, trouble is I started volunteering at the allotment, and that is a lot more entertaining to write about. So you'll have to forgive me if I sometimes get diverted onto other subjects.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A Steamy Affair...

Little did I know when I wrote my blog yesterday how my life was about to change thanks to my new steam cleaner. What a little gem it is! Whilst the rest of the country had to endure a day of freezing fog stuck in an endless traffic jam, I was in steam heaven. With the touch of a button I removed dried frog goo, coagulated mouse parts, and clods of ingrained mud. And that was just from the dining room table...No seriously. The thing really works. I don't want to boast but when I looked at my kitchen floor this morning all I could think of was... King's College Chapel! And I received a full facial into the bargain...If any of you are thinking of turning your back garden into a wildlife haven, I'd say get one of these for the house before you start. Today I'm going to concentrate on upgrading my bird feeding/bathing facilities, as I've noticed that the people across the way, who used to provide a haven for all our feathered friends have apparently left. As I look across at their magnificent but now empty bird table I can see the puzzled birds coming and going. Bloody hell it's freezing out there! I'll make them a little jacuzzi I think and try the peanut feeder again. Perhaps now they're desperate they'll try them.

Monday, 18 February 2008

La Vie En Rose

In my haste to post on Saturday, I forgot to mention a Friday key event which may highlight for you the difficulties involved in the recyclers world. I woke up to find a large, dead mouse in the middle of the living room floor. Picking it up I realised that I didn't know which bin I should put it in. Intuitively, one might have thought that an ex-living creature should go in the Green Bin, but on the other hand, a lot of things one might thus put in the green bin, such a dog poo, do not go in the Green Bin, but must be wrapped up and put in the Black Bin. What was I to do? Yet another call to the Council's environmental officer? ('Yes, Mrs Barker, I quite understand your dilemma' said in a ravishing Irish accent). But it was late, and allotment duty called, so I threw it out in the back garden. Later that evening, as I tried to watch my sofa cinema film 'La Vie En Rose', my cats returned the mouse and appeared to play an advanced form of handball with it. It is now stuffed into the Green Bin. Life continues. Today I'm going to try out my new lightweight steam cleaner. I've already had a guy from their marketing department ring me up to ask me how happy I am with it. 'I'm as happy as anyone ever could be with a new, portable steam cleaner' I replied. I didn't tell him I'm mad. A friend has just told me he cannot receive my colourful Facebook offerings because they may be 'vectors of malware'. Is he OK, or has he gone completely paranoid? Keep reading this blog!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

True Grit

Lordy! Just got a phone call from H thinking I'd given up the ghost because I hadn't blogged for a week...I obviously need to assure you all I haven't expired, but have simply been suffering from virtual constipation. Valentine's Day on Facebook turned out to be rather hard going (choosing the most suitable icon to send to each of my 57 friends was somewhat time consuming), plus I was devastated on Friday evening when Stacey and Bradley didn't get back together. All this on top of nearly missing the bin men on Tuesday forcing me to appear on my own doorstep dressed only in a flannelette nightie! Anyway, the allotment group went well. A large team turned up, we made good headway on all fronts, and I managed not to pour milk into my hat. I've spent the rest of the week making a small mineral and gemstone garden (Wow!) in the patch behind the pond made uninhabitable by the builders (they left a great lump of concrete in it for no apparent reason). To do this I'm using all the 'free gifts' offered by the Treasures of the Earth magazine I've been collecting over the last few months, plus some left over grit, and some rather pretty mosaic making items I picked up in France. I must say it all looks rather pretty. My big night out next week is going to see a man who rose from the dead after he was stung by a jelly fish. Don't tell me I don't have an exciting life! Sorry I forgot to mention, we managed to put up a nesting box on the allotment to commemorate NATIONAL NESTING BOX WEEK. I may suffer from virtual constipation, but my devotion to duty never fails.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Arctic Monkeys

I'm sure you're all wondering what an earth has happened to me, as there was no allotment posting last week. Well, you'll just have to excuse me, but things have been quite frantic here as I now have over 50 Facebook friends to deal with plus my usual bin responsibilities, clearing up after the cats, etc etc etc. Anyway last week we went to the allotment and got on with our hotbeds. The only happening of note was that milk had leaked into my woolly hat during the journey, so that when I put the hat on the entire contents of a cow's udder dripped down over my face. This week I planted some Alstroemeria 'Planet Mixed' (free from Thompson and Morgan!) whilst my friend shovelled more shit and our revered leader found that we had a large buried tree under the section where nothing had grown last year. Unfortunately, I was also suffering from a major wardrobe malfunction which meant a large gap kept appearing between my trousers and my jacket, the consequence being I not only nearly froze to death during my planting procedures but now I need to go to the loo about every ten minutes. Let this be a warning to you: when out in Arctic Conditions always wear a full length coat. Other exciting news this week: I have been invited to join a sort of neighbourhood watch group which evidently exists to ensure that our local streets remain pristine. Their main activity seems to be taking away people's bins when they've been left out on the street too long and then making them pay to get them back. What larks!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Lights, Camera, Action....

What a week! On Friday it was tipping down with rain again, but this time we managed to get to a garden centre whose location was actually known to our driver. We bought a damson and a green gage tree---both should be magnificent for both blossom and jam-making fruit. My delight was compounded by finding that back at home my wonderful Peruvian mittens (special offer and sale, The Guardian Newspapers...), AND six Erysimum Constant Cheer had turned up. I don't know if you've heard of these. They are like wallflowers except they are hardy and they have the most magnificent flowers which turn from orange through to purple as the summer progresses. They grow just about anywhere and are as tough as boots. I got them through the shopping channel, QVC, which, I've just discovered, is not to be sniffed at when it comes to plants. Anyway, as I'm sure you all know, Saturday provided us with the most grotty weather imaginable, and I spent all day watching films that I've ordered from 'the sofa cinema'---another Guardian creation and so good for those inclined to depression during these winter months...But I had no time for depression, because today I was called to a major PR event! A hundred of us gathered in one of Cambridge's parks to advertise the fact that our charity is 100 years old, and that it supports one in four of the population that suffer from mental health problems. Guess what we did? We all dressed up in T-shirts---a quarter of which were blue and the rest white. Then we gathered on chairs arranged in the shape of one hundred, while cameramen hoisted on fireengines took our pictures (I kid you not...). It was freezing cold and everything apart from my hands (covered, of course, in my delightful Peruvian gloves) shrivelled up. We had to do it over and over again, sitting down, standing up, looking forward, looking up, hands down, hands up. I never realised how gruelling the life of a top model could be! Afterwards I swanked into one of Cambridge's top restaurants and explained to all and sundry that my slightly over-ethnic appearance was due to 'An absolutely shattering photo-shoot...' before slumping dramatically on one of their designer chairs. Then I had a delicious steak with handcut chips. Oh heaven!

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Sugar Plum Fairy

I knew normality couldn't last. This Friday is was tipping down with rain. After much discussion the group decided to go to a garden centre to pick up a plum and and a damson tree. I thought our leader was in a bit of a funny mood before we started out. As we started off, though, it became apparent he had fallen into a black pit of depression. He started 'f-ing and blinding' and the car soon filled up with a thick fog. At this point it became apparent that he didn't know where the garden centre was, and the only one who did know was sitting in the back seat (with me) and had no idea where we were. I kept asking him to turn on the demisters, but it was now apparent that he didn't know what these were. We kept skidding along, hitting the kerb occasionally. Then we went the wrong way! Our leader went into meltdown and the rest of us had to very gently get him to turn round and put him on the right track again. Finally,we got to the garden centre. The three of us jumped out and literally ran to the entrance---only to find that it was closed because of an electricity cut. Deciding not to make the entire trip a waste of time, I asked the nice man at the door if he could find out if they had plums and damson trees in stock. So he started phoning the other members of staff inside. At this very point our leader turned up and started shouting at the top of his voice, 'I'm not interested in whether they've got any bloody plums or not! Let's go home!' I think by this time all of us realised he had regressed to the level of a four year old. Anway, I got the required information (although at this point I wanted to ask, 'If you had to guess which of us is certifiably mad, who would you chose?') we got back in the car, and headed back. As we got to my house, the leader didn't exactly apologise, but did say he was angry because he'd planned to finish the Victorian hotbed and couldn't because it was raining! Is there such a thing as allotment rage? Answers please!

Friday, 4 January 2008

The Basket Case.

Thank goodness things are back to normal---a wonderful Friday spent shovelling horse manure at the allotment. To be honest, I wasn't sure this week that I didn't have the dreaded virus that is going round: I had 'the runs' and I certainly felt sick. But then, as we all know, I am a hypochondriac, so we can't be sure. Anyway, I felt a lot better after getting started on the hotbeds. I made a small one on my own using an old laundry basket (hush, we may be at the cutting edge of organic gardening here, I'll let you know of its progress.) I got started on another in an ex-compost bin, and the third, real Victorian one, was marked out with plastic posts by our leader...I'm sure you're all at the edge of your seats by now wondering how to make a Victorian Hotbed, so here goes. You basically dig a hole between two and four feet deep. You then at least half fill this hole with horse manure which you then walk on to squash down. You then put the soil back, but adding compost as you go so you end up with a 1:1 mixture. You cover the whole thing over with something transparent like glass or polythene. As you can tell from the above, I'm trying to do some small ones without the digging to see if they work. The point of it all is that you end up with a really hot, well fertilised, patch where you can grow things at least a month early. Next week some of the blokes will hopefully turn up and do a bit of digging...As for the rest of the plot...well, the broad beans are doing fine, but the onions I planted seem to have caught damping off or something (I think they knew they weren't loved, don't you?). Oh yes, in case you're wondering. The reason I had an old laundry basket was because I bought a new one in the new John Lewis's in Cambridge---reduced from £30 to £10! What a day that was. I celebrated by having a salmon and scrambled egg breakfast in their restaurant, with waitress service...Even we greens have our moments.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Well, Happy New Year to you all! I hope some of you will be making resolutions that go beyond the 'lose weight and get fit' variety. I thought I'd share with you the resolutions I made last year, as at that time this mighty blog did not exist. They were:
1. To turn my backgarden into a wildlife refuge, the central feature of which to be a pond.
2. To join a local charity which was involved in some environmental initiatve.
3. To insulate my loft, doubleglaze my windows and fit energy saving light bulbs.
4. To follow the Council's bin instructions to the letter.
5. To join a church that actually offered practical help to the most vulnerable instead of one that just harped on about being 'saved'.
I hope these might inspire you. As for myself, as I put on two stone last year and now waddle like a duck, I'm rejoining the gym and going on a diet...