Saturday, 28 January 2012

My nephew John

This is another uncharacteristically serious post.  In September, my nephew John was diagnosed with bowel cancer.  His wife, Stella, suggested he write a blog of his experience which he called 'Me and My Friend'.  This is his first entry:

'Why me and my friend?

Yesterday, after a battery of tests, I found out that I have bowel cancer and it seems so unreal that it feels as though this is happening to someone I know very well but not me.

I am a complete novice at 'blogging' and thought that it may be an interesting way of plotting my progress through the medical procedures over the coming months. I also thought my blog may strike a note with other people in a similar circumstance.'
His blog is just like him, honest, unflinching, funny, tough and completely positive.  It makes hard reading for those of us who love him, but he faces the fear head on.  It charts his path through diagnosis, prognosis and treatment in a clear and unsentimental way, and logs his determination to retain his fitness levels with cycle rides, gym work and outings on his beloved motorbike.  I think that it might help others in a similar situation.  His blog can be found on

The picture was taken on a trip to Nice with Stella over the New Year.  He's fireman so was helplessly drawn to the French fire engine!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Indolence thwarted

I think I'm getting lazy.  No, actually, I know I'm getting lazy.  What with the recession, depression, whatever it is, I was really hoping that I wouldn't get much work this year.  Isn't that a terrible thing to confess to?  (Or to which to confess for any pedants reading this post.)  In my line of work everything usually goes quiet around November then revs up again on the second week of February.  I know this sounds pretty precise but ever since I've been designing gardens my first phone call/email of the season almost always comes then.  You know why, of course.  It's the time of year when people look out of their windows and realise that they have a featureless lump of mud and weeds posing as a garden in their backyard.

Anyway, garden design work in this particular year, filled with gloom and doom, redundancies, bankruptcies (not sure if that is even a word but never mind), Euro catastrophes etc was sure, I felt, to be thin on the ground, if not non-existent.  Endless days of pottering about on the allotment, taking leisurely bicycle rides, actually doing my own garden...lovely.  Hah!  Four whole weeks earlier than usual I've got three new jobs...and I can't even turn them down on the grounds that I don't like the people.  They're all lovely, and keen,  What's happening? 

By the way, talking of pedants, my husband had a colleague who regularly pulled people up on their grammar.  One of his victims, stung by the criticsm, snapped back 'Oh, pedants are us' to which he replied 'I think you mean pedants are we.'

Oh well, back to the grindstone...sob...    

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Funerals and poetry

Most of my regular readers (so that'll be you John) will know that my posts are usually quite whimsical, but yesterday I went to the funeral of a very dear friend's daughter.  A poem was read by Cheryl's best friend and I've transcribed it below because I found it touching and wanted to share it.  The poem is called The Dash and is by Linda Ellis.

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
Then the following date named with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For it matters not how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard:
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a while.

So when your eulogy is read
With life's actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

I think Cheryl spent her dash very, very well.  God bless.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Plant rage

So, recession bites its way into 2012...except not amongst Kent gardeners, apparently.  Yesterday, I experienced my first taste of plant rage as two perfectly nice, normal looking men fought for a Clematis at my lovely local nursery (by the way, I don't buy much there because I can get everything much cheaper from my trade nursery, but I like to go to drool over things just like anyone else).

Anyway, back to the Clematis.  This nursery has a sale on, which not many do but which I thought was quite a good idea...until yesterday.  It was like Harrods used to be on January 1st!  Pots overturned, quite a lot of defensive trolley pushing going on, totally unsuitable purchases (I mean, can anyone really want a variegated Fatsia?), knomes crushed get the picture.  And in the middle of the carnage, two elderly gentlemen playing an unseemly tug of war with a Clematis Etoile Violette: 'I think I saw this before you old chap'.  'Au contraire chummy. Ouch!'

Now this is one of my favourite Clematis, in fact I think I've planted one in almost every garden I've ever designed, and it was marked down to £2.50, but even so.  It made the other nursery I frequent, my grandson's, seem quite sedate!

By the way, a belated Happy New Year to all my followers (that's you, John).

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Ducks loose!

Oh yes, it's that time of year again when madness descends on the sleepy Kentish village of Loose and hundreds of yellow plastic ducks thunder (well, to be completely accurate, very slowly bob) along the Loose stream for the Loose Duck Race.

If you've never lived in a village you really would not believe the amount of organisation, cajoling, manipulation, charm, dedication and outright force of will it takes to make an event of this kind happen. To start with there are 875 ducks involved...and then there are the cakes...

...Everyone in the village bakes like mad (competition? Nous?) producing a cornucopia of georgeous scrumptiousness which will be scoffed within a couple of hours along with gallons of tea...and don't even mention the barbecue, which last year ran out of all meat orientated products two full hours before the end of proceedings. This year double the amount has been ordered but still the local butcher is on standby just in case...and we've got even more coconuts for the coconut shy...don't ask!

And did I mention plants? Not for us the usual collection of scraggy, pathetic, unidentifiable odds and ends that get offered at village fetes. Oh no. Our vegetable plants and annuals have been lovingly sown and nurtured by my neighbours Tom, Pat and David, and we'll also have some beautiful and interesting herbaceous plants, which is where I come in. Yippee, an orgy of plant buying from my trade nursery to look forward to!

It's a pretty exhausting day, and after all that bobbing the ducks always enjoy the leavings in the drip tray in the local.

If you're in the Maidstone area on the next Bank Holiday Monday (30th May) come on down to Loose. It's a lot of fun. And what have you got to Loose? Sorry...too good to resist.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Dicksonia antarctica trouble

Does anyone know what on earth's up with my Dicksonia antarctica? It's oozing this brownish/orangeish jelly like stuff, at first in perfectly round balls the size of a small pea and now also in streaks of the stuff. It was lovingly wrapped up for winter in fleece with straw and last year's fronds protecting the crown. I uncovered it about three weeks ago (I live in Kent) and there was no sign of it then. There are no nasty grubs in the jelly, by the way.

Any advice gratefully received.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Hoe, hoe, hoe

I've got an allotment, and before you imagine you can hear the creak of someone jumping onto the bandwagon or think that I've gone all Joe Swifty, I've had mine for 15 years. Yes, back in the days when you were allowed a bit of convulvulus and sheds didn't have curtains from Kath Whatsername. I've also got a completely bonkers allotment neighbour.

'You don't find many of these around nowadays' he boomed the other day, effortlessly finding me as I hid behind the sweetcorn. 'It's really useful. Look.' Dropping to his knees he started stabbing at a row of beetroot.

'It's a hoe'
'You just don't find them anymore. Look at the workmanship'
'But, it's a hoe'

At this point he gave me the sort of pitying look I'd give him if I wasn't so nice (cowardly.)

'Why don't you get a handle put on it?'
'Now there's an idea. I know just the man for the job too. Real craftsman.'

Two days later he turned up with a broom handle stuck into the hoe. I was weeding on my knees with a hand fork, anathema to a hoer (which sounds a bit like an Irish lady of the night except that we don't get many of them on the allotments).

'I'd lend it to you, but you have to know how to use it properly' he said, just before the handle fell off.