Temporary absence

I’m going away… for ten days. I am sorry for all your posts I will miss, but my only hope of sanity is to leap into the future when I return. By this time I hope some more tomatoes will be ripening and that neighbours will have picked the ones that are already ripe. DSCN8240 - Version 2 DSCN8239  DSCN8281 - Version 2 DSCN8237

I look forward to eating our unnamed delicious apples (the tree came labelled Victoria plum).DSCN8280and in late in October our Blenheim Orange.DSCN8287 But sadly, we will not be eating tasty leeks next spring, because the dastardly leek moth hath got them – useful information here: http://www.getseedy.co.uk/2011/09/whos-been-eating-my-leeks/

Another end-of-season reward is the cyclamen that are popping up all round the garden.DSCN8272 DSCN8292 - Version 2


See you late September.


L881 VLB – RIP


My utterly trusty Nissan Sunny has finally gone on to be an organ donor. The engine could have lasted for many more years, but it’s been an age since the rev counter worked. The door locking mechanisms play a symphony at random moments. The shock absorbers are giving up the ghost. The wheel bearings object noisily to multi-storey car parks. The windscreen wipers and washers are finding it all too much. The ventilation system showers the unwary with leaf fragments… my Very Lovely Beast (VLB) has come to a natural end.

The upside is that Chicago daughter’s small Peugot, stabled for 3 plus years in our garage, can now sit in the drive, releasing a fine large dry area of shed space.

I am comforting myself with the smell of lilies and the sight of the Hydrangea Paniculata Pink Diamond  (it turns pink as it fades).DSCN8154 DSCN8155 - Version 2 DSCN8156 And I’ve just discovered that the hedgehog in the pot is sort-of visible (though not posing very helpfully) in one of my photos. Pity about the embarrassing state of the back door. DSCN8152



The hedgehog’s dilemma

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 22.37.52(Photo from The Guardian by David Jones/PA)

We have been feeding and watering our visiting hedgehog since early spring. At first he ate from an open plate, but we became worried that he was having to share with cats/magpies/ foxes. The advice on Springwatch was to put the food into a piece of drainpipe. Lacking a drainpipe we used a deep plastic plant pot. DSCN8144He took to this without hesitation, and if we timed it right, by shining a torch through the back door, we could spot his rear end. In late spring there was a lot of snuffling and grunting and Mrs Hedgehog appeared. They cavorted for a few days, and you could go up and shine a torch on them and they just continued running round after each other. She vanished and we were back to Mr on his ownsome.

Then, a few weeks ago, we started to notice that the pot kept walking in the night. We were also curious that half the food would go between 9.30 and 10.30, but the rest disappeared overnight. Suddenly we have two hedgehogs, we have seen them both several times, we don’t know if this is Mrs or son/daughter or hopeful passerby BUT Hedgehog 2 has a problem. He/she is either short of marbles or has claustrophobia, because H2 will only eat from the back of the pot. DSCN8145 To achieve this H2 has to bump the back of the pot until the food falls through the holes in the back of the pot. On wet nights, we put the pot under the back door porch. If I stay up late, there is a continuous knocking sound and this little fellow bumps the rear of the pot, eats the few fragments that fall through and bumps again. If only H2 would walk round the pot, he/she would see that he was knocking the food to the front open edge, but H2 endlessly circles the rear of the pot and NEVER goes to the front. I have tried to photograph this, but  apart from being collapsed with laughter, I cannot make the camera play.

And no, I can’t sex hedgehogs, it’s deduction.

Tomatoes (plus a little DIY and writing) rule my life

Now that the DIY on our two rotten windowsills, after much resin filler and elbow-grease, is nearing completion, I can concentrate on my writing…

DSCN7843 DSCN7840DSCN7840 DSCN7846 DSCN7848DSCN8106DSCN8102DSCN8027DSCN8107

Except that last year my new greenhouse was a pitiful desert. All I managed to grow were three sweet peppers (on one plant). Everything else got fried or damped off as I was ignorant about managing the ventilation. So this spring, I sowed madly… perhaps a little too madly. I was miffed when tomatoes failed to germinate, so I sowed more. Various seedlings got potted on and moved into the garden and veg plot, but new tomato seedlings – unlabelled – kept popping up in unlikely places.

Apart from three pepper plants, tomatoes now rule the greenhouse and my life. There are more than 34 plants. The greenhouse ones need constant  water, and ventilation and they all need non-stop disbudding (a skill I have acquired late in life, but will lead, I am assured, to more tomatoes and less greenery).

DSCN8100DSCN8099 DSCN8097 DSCN8095 DSCN8088 And the hosta, of course, just keeps on growing. DSCN8024I am still writing, and I have exciting news on the POW letters book front, but I will wait for tangible confirmation before sharing it.


Hosta in the rain

with self-portrait, I see.

This post is a garden interlude as I shall not be much at home in the next week or so. I will be missing more of your posts, so apologies.

DSCN7789In April this tub was empty and on May 3 it looked like this. DSCN7572 A pink peony, name unknown.DSCN7776 Rosa Warm Welcome (beautifully scented and very prickly) above rhododendron Yakushimanum Titian Beauty.DSCN7771


The books of Borgo Pignano

(A post mostly for bibliophiles)

Last Christmas we opened our present from our daughters to find this. DSCN7549On the back it explained that this was a long weekend (half-board) in Borgo Pignano in Tuscany. I am not about to post my 130 odd photos or describe our holiday, except to say that it was an uplifting experience. The ethos of owners of this beautiful 12th and 18th century cluster of buildings was of local, sustainable, organic living. We were happy, extremely well-fed (garden to table) guests, in the most stunning, spacious and peaceful of surroundings.

Among all the delights the one that enchanted me almost to delirium was the library. Never have I encountered such an eclectic mix of good books in such a wide selection of languages (original and translated) in my life before. I suspect it is unique.DSCN7373 DSCN7533

For tasters, here is a selection from just one shelf: Conosci L’Italia, il FolkloreQuarterly Review of Archaeology (1959), 4 vols; La Institución de Eserianza y su Ambiente, Antonio Jiménez; Manuale Storico della Letteratura Romana, Ranconi, Posani, Tandoi; Doppelspiel Mit Dame, Irving Wallace; Das Boot ist Voll…, Alfred A. Häsler; Kinder Brauchen Märchen, Bruno Bettelheim; The Fall of the Spanish American Empire, Salvador de Madriaga (many copies of this and other works by the same author in several languages); La Voce Che Ricorda, Ama Adhe (preface by the Dalai Lama); Ottjen Alldag, Georg Droste; Tschaikowsky, Alexander Andreavsky (in German); Secret de Centenaires, Jean Pelissier (Chinese medicine); Be a Goddess, Francesca de Grandis (Celtic spells); La Dottrina Celeste,  Emanuel Swedenborg; Mahā, Mudra (Mediation, French); The Twilight of Machines, John Zerzara; Spuren, Eric Ambler (German); Sesso, Antonella Biagioni; Fe Sin Blasfemia, Salvator de Madriaga; A Step by Step Guide to Drawing the Human Figure, John Raynes; Holbein’s Drawings at Windsor Castle, K. T. Parker; Shakespeare and the Emblem Writers, Henry Green. (Well, well, that really fixed spellcheck, it gave up completely.)DSCN7524I found little gems, such as a dual language school version of Coleridge’s, The Ancient Mariner. The text includes little resumés of the action written thus: ‘An Ancient Mariner meeteth three Gallants, bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one.’DSCN7424_2 DSCN7425  Another cover that caught my fancy was Hawking’s Big Bang in Italian. DSCN7525

Then there was a music book of laments from the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.DSCN7532

I have never known such browsing delight, but I’d better stop. Well, maybe the view from our bedroom window first thing in the morning.  DSCN7383


The other day upon the stair…

…I met a man who wasn’t there. He (she) isn’t there again today…

This is me. I have been away for a few days, and in a couple more I am going away again.  I am brutally skipping most of your lovely posts. When I get back again at the end of next week, I will tune in again.

This is where I have been.DSCN7321This is the tree that was planted when got married – a weeping Ash.DSCN7308DSCN7309This is a cactus we visited at Cannington Walled GardensDSCN7342And some tulips back at home. DSCN7364

The most unlikely Valentine

I was getting up yesterday when I noticed the date and nipped down to interrupt my husband, already at the breakfast table, with a kiss and a Valentine wish. He glanced up from his newspaper and reciprocated. That was Valentine done for another year.

The day before I had mentioned to my husband that I needed a tennis ball (bear with me) to put in the drying machine to try to restore our towels to a semblance of fluffiness. This may turn out to be another internet myth – we shall see.

Around midday, he appeared in the garden (I was battling with the roots of a pot-bound rhododendron) and offered me this.

DSCN7030        In 1978 we were expecting our first child. Parenting classes for fathers included the information that during childbirth your wife might suffer from something called ‘back labour’. This could be rather ‘uncomfortable’ but the appropriate (? don’t ask me) use of a tennis ball might help relieve the pain. He had purchased this ball and packed it, along with many other recommended comforts, for the expected long haul. In the event there was no time to use any of these aids and our first-born arrived without need of a tennis ball or much else – but here, preserved all these years, is the very one.

I call that a Valentine present.

Edit for Andrew… two years later.

My Tennis Elly 1980 1 My Tennis Elly 1980 2

Tackling the writer’s To Do list

Finally, I have faced the list on my desk. Actually this is a rolling list, I tick off some things, then as the page fills up, I start a clean sheet and roll the undone items forward. Some things have been there for months because… they are all to do with marketing and I find them somewhat embarrassing.

Today’s task was to wipe out the list so, among other things, I have joined goodreads.com, and I have accepted an invitation (which may by now have lapsed) to be interviewed as a Sunday Guest on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life. I have ducked on asking my old college if they want to do a piece on my last novel in their newsletter (previously another person has done this on my behalf and I lack the chutzpah to ask them myself). I will do this for my forthcoming, more academic, non-fiction book. The list is now empty.

Why, oh why is this so difficult?

I have spent a happy three weeks doing DIY, lining our 9″ solid brick walls with 4mm fleece, doing really tricksy measuring and cutting.DSCN6936 DSCN6939 I have the fortune to be able to choose what I do. I could be happy all the time, gardening, doing DIY, reading, going Lindy Hopping, or to the opera and I have endless other occupations, so why write, publish and have to market books? Do I think I have something so important to say that others have not already said? (no) Would I become bored after all without the writing? (possibly) Would I think less of myself if I didn’t attempt this challenge? (probably). Do I secretly enjoy it?… Actually, no secret, I definitely enjoy parts of it. I love the challenge and the project aspect of the work (that’s another whole post). I just hate marketing…  (Enough of the confessional).

While I was thus occupied, winter made its usual erratic visit to the UK. DSCN6985 DSCN6986 We may get another few inches tomorrow, or it may all have disappeared. Who can say.