Pumps, beans, peppers… and a temple?

Our garden is frying and, owing to my absent-mindedness in June when I emptied the underground rainwater harvester AND burnt out the pump, soft rainwater is in short supply. The pump is now (expensively) replaced. This shows the challenge of waterproofing the electrical component. I just love the men at play – sorry – work’. DSCN9638

Meanwhile the vegetable plot which was mostly growing marigolds, DSCN9660 - Version 2

is now pouring out beans – this morning’s haul – runners on left and flat French climbing bean Algarve on right – they are delicious and stringless (unless you miss them for weeks).DSCN9769 Autumn raspberries make good grazing and we are eating the first tomatoes too. I’m getting quite excited about the peppers. Patience is still required; we must wait for the yellow ones to turn red and the green ones to turn yellow … before they’re ripe. DSCN9736My husband has been hard at work in the unpleasaunce, recycling more parts of the old shed and has produced a … temple?DSCN9759 - Version 2During the June storms gravel was swept all the way down the concrete path on the right. This is because the ground on the other side of back fence is two foot higher – hence the barricade of ancient building stones that we have found around the garden. The old shed door atop the two uprights is meant to provide another log shelter.

Some rather crazy colour schemes I am enjoying. And in lovely contrast the indomitable DSCN9695Californian tree poppy (Romney coulteri) is lighting up the dried out August garden. I treat it mean and it never fails. DSCN9734

 

An Honest House and an Albrizia

I loved Cynthia Reyes’s first Memoir  A Good Home, so I picked up the continuing story An Honest House in happy anticipation. This is a book with a perfect title and has been                             Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 20.22.10

my companion during a more than hectic summer. The night before my own book launch I read the words ‘And then it was May 17, only one day before the book launch’. Coin-cidences aside, this book faced up to some very difficult themes with total honesty. A supremely difficult life-changing event – a car accident, and its consequences – physical impairment, chronic pain and PTSD are things that can and do happen to anyone. They are explored with a rare mixture of humour and intensity.

This book is a bumpy ride, where the highs and lows follow each other in quick succession – I laughed over the Valentine, I wept over Keats, I laughed over ‘a job that pays’. There are few easy-walking meadows in this story, because it is about the mountains and valleys. Among the things that struck me was Cynthia’s insistence on facing up to something we all know – it is never a good time for a difficult or dangerous conversation – and dealing with it so courageously.

When the story introduces the ultimate twist, it is even more powerful, because it is true. The whole book is about honesty, love, family life, happiness and faith. And if, like me, you do not have the kind of faith Cynthia has, this is also fine. She makes it easy to empathise with her faith instead.

By chance, I was given another very slim memoir titled Ann during this period. This was a private summary of a life of drama, pain, good homes, faith and also much happiness. I am so grateful Cynthia and Ann for telling us their stories of family life, so that none of us feel alone when we, too, meet the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

And talking of families, the most wonderful gift arrived from my American son-in-law’s parents, Sharon and Rick. Here is a poor photo of my beautiful new little tree, an Albizia julibrissin. There will be more in the future. DSCN9651

 

Time, You Old Gypsy Man,

Will you not stay,

Put up your caravan

Just for one day?

etc Ralph Hodgson

It is more than a month since I posted here. My three email inboxes are bulging and I still haven’t posted flyers for Surviving the Death Railway to friends and relatives on my mailing list… A week today on Thursday 28 July, I will be giving a lecture at The National Archives in Kew titled Writing to a Ghost: Far East POWs (by this time a week today it will be over!). But this is the first of five going into November.

At the two launches for my book many people sweetly offered the same theme, with variations: ‘You must be so proud, now you can relax.’ I am proud of the people in the book and very happy that others have been able to recognise their achievements now and  yes, I’m pleased that I played a part in that. Relax? In my dreams.

In between these events I continue to attend the local Toastmasters Club, where I am learning to overcome my fear of public speaking. This is the warmest safest environment imaginable. Many bright young things, often giving speeches in their second language, as well as several of my own age – a very buzzy, happy, honest, international crowd – and that in spite of the nightmare of Brexit and many other world horrors. This provides a good reminder that the newspapers only tell us the bad stuff, there’s plenty of the other. Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 22.06.36

And, the hedgehog still attends nightly (looking a little anxious about being photographed). I even saw three of them one night. DSCN9629 Of course the garden, a little neglected, will still be there when this caravan limps into a parking space. (These so-green photos were taken before the current heat wave!) DSCN9631 DSCN9606

See you all again soon.

One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer’s head…

On 21 May we had a launch party for Surviving the Death Railway; A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home in the beautiful home where I spent the second half of my childhood. Here it is in the early morning of our wedding day in 1977. Dipford 1977 The party went splendidly and I was moved by the wonderful mixture of people – from relatives of the families in the book, to local people who remembered Barry and Phyllis (the book is about Barry, a Far East POW and Phyllis his wife, who waited out the war with no direct communication for three and a half years) and many of Barry and Phyllis’s (and my) relatives. There were men swapping stories about their father and their uncle and holding back their tears.

We returned across the country to our home. I began to relax, thinking I now had nearly a month to finish the private version of the book (done, and the proof copy arrived this morning to be checked),DSCN9555 and to rescue the garden from the chaos of neglect DSCN9552(ongoing) and rediscover my studyDSCN9515

under the piles books and papers (also done),DSCN9526before the second launch for local friends and other relatives on 18 June. This would then give me time to sort out marketing and publicity stuff before the release of the book on 30 June… I had even started looking in on your lovely, neglected blogs again. However, three days ago a cheerful email arrived telling me that the book had now been released (Pen and Sword publish by month and Amazon always release on the last day of that month – but I didn’t know that). This morning a lovely person from P & S’s digital marketing arm rang for more  information and this evening I managed to update my website. Next Saturday I have 60 plus people coming for sandwiches, sangria and a book. I am juggling garden rescue, food planning and creating, proof-reading (again!!) and I feel as though I am being leapfrogged at every turn.

In between all this I have joined the local branch of Toastmasters to try and overcome my fear of public speaking (I did my ice-breaker last Tuesday to the friendliest bunch of people you could dream up). And I have been arranging talks in museums on Far East POWs.

This is all in the way of saying sorry that I am not visiting your blogs. I will return when the staff officers stop playing leapfrog.

Running out of time, my birthday present to my husband was the promise of a few days in Venice in September – sort of cheating as I get to go too… I can’t wait.

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Pleasaunces, unpleasaunces and a book break

Christopher Lloyd said that all gardens have an unpleasaunce as well as a pleasance – ours has several. In the last couple of months my husband has created order out of chaos and we are unpleasaunce down and several compost bins, new fence and a log shelter up.

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The rest of the garden is half way through June as far as I can tell.

… I am being forced to use the new editor as I cannot upload media in the old one… and it is sending me crackers!! I have no idea why these images are different sizes. Here, I hope, is my art-house image of the garden.DSCN9375

This post is really to say a brief goodbye as I tackle the pre-publication launch parties for the new book. Copies were due last week… they will now arrive three days before the first party. I shall be away from my desk for several days. My sanity is hanging by a thread. I am trailing behind  with all your posts, so will be doing some leapfrogging. Sorry about the ones I will miss.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 21.26.02

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Walls, balls, squirrels et al.

A while ago I mentioned that I planned to replace my desk seat (an ancient block of polystyrene) with a Swedish ball. I duly bought one… but I go the size wrong. DSCN9306I’d need to have shorter legs, or a very long body to make this workable. So I thought I would use it for its proper purpose – exercise. I checked out some websites and there were some good moves to be done with a flat piece of wall*. So I walked round our house looking for an appropriate piece of wall. We have a plenty of rooms, but – one of our daughters and several of our friends are artists, my husband is an archivist and historian, I have been collecting books from childhood onwards… I could not find a single large enough area of wall for me and the Swedish ball in the whole house. I am still puzzling over this.

A couple of days ago we met the smallest squirrel in the area on his first day out. DSCN9271 - Version 2 DSCN9276 - Version 2 DSCN9278He wasn’t entirely sure who to be friends with, what to eat or where to go.

One of my prettiest acer seedlings, the only purple dissectum, got caught by the frost three weeks ago, DSCN9190 - Version 2and has now definitely bitten the dust. I cannot complain as all the others that I transplanted have survived appalling wind and frost (I have been turning the garden into a ghosttown at night with white fleeces every where). The mature maples are now in lovely spring leaf.

Acer palmatum Sengo Kaku

Acer palmatum Sengo Kaku

Acer palmatum Trompenburg

Acer palmatum Trompenburg

Some spring flowers are already going over, but I still love tulips when they grow blowsy,DSCN9308and the Kraken is awaking (see Monster Hosta post).

Hosta Sum and Substance

Hosta Sum and Substance

We have a friend staying and yesterday went to visit Audley End in Essex. I am suffering from greenhouse envy. DSCN9296

*Memo to self try to avoid text with the words ball, wall, movement etc, it is very difficult to keep it clean.

Crazy packaging, sheds and log stores

The other day a substantial box came through the post. It even had two plastic ties (not shown) to hold the contents safe. DSCN9217I opened it and the inside of the thick cardboard was attractively coloured and patterned.DSCN9218The contents were wrapped in white tissue held together with a pretty sticker. When I opened this there were two small packets and some air-filled polythene cushions. When I had discarded all the packing, this is what had arrived: DSCN9222Two pairs of pants and a bra. These are modest purchases of very basic underwear and would have fitted in a small jiffy bag. What was all that about? These people sell only lingerie, are they trying to woo me into buying their top of the range camisole? Do they think because I am small I am a teenager, and they need to make me a friend for life? Frankly baffled.

I seem to remember promising photos of the shed – it looks awfully like the old one. DSCN9122 We robbed parts of the old shed to make a log store. It took our combined ingenuity (and vast education) several hours (plus a trip to the hardware store) to construct this simple affair.DSCN9204

Rainbow at mid-afternoon.DSCN9144

Full moon at dusk.DSCN9236