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…

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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.


Catching up… and falling behind

Progress on one front is always balanced by a lag on another. The sun only shines at erratic intervals in the UK, you need to get out there and get to work. In the last two weeks we have reduced this DSCN7002to this.DSCN7095

I have spread it round the garden and some parts are done (darling crocus – Blue Pearl).



Others are half done – the veg bed.

DSCN7100While others are hardly begun…

The DIY is still pending. If you think watching paint dry is boring, trying watching plaster… DSCN7042  DSCN7107
And yet we have made progress in one room.


On the writing front Alison Williams has   added to her review of Border Line on Rosie Amber’s site, by giving me an interview on her own. and I have done some work on my Far East POW book.

Meanwhile the drizzle of emails has reached blizzard proportions, but the sun is shining and I must get out.

Tomorrow garden, writing, DIY or blog and email catch-up? I’ll have to roll a dice, check the colour of the sky or design a grid to show which is most urgent. This appeared two evenings ago. DSCN7058

Help, the garden is waking up…

… and I am nowhere near ready. Last week… and this week                     DSCN6993DSCN7026

I planned to do some radical mulching of my poor thin soil before the spring sprang. It should have been done in the autumn, but there was the small matter of publishing Border Line. The giant bag of mulch I have just ordered arrived at dawn, so I was directing operations in a dressing gown and wellington boots – not for the first time.                            DSCN6998DSCN7002                     All I need now is the time, the energy and some bearable weather conditions in order to spread joy among my flower and veg beds. I also need to dig out matted roots in the big Rhododendron pots and replace the soil, move a couple of roses, prune all the others, cut back cornus, raspberries, wisteria… etc etc

Unfortunately, I still haven’t finished the internal DIY. This should also have been done before Christmas (when I was publishing a book). So the dining room is full of tools and fleece liner, the spare bedroom is full of everything that has come out of our bedroom the box room and another room. I can’t progress here, because, although the plasterer came  IMG_0919  DSCN7016  a week ago the plaster is still drying in all three rooms. DSCN7014 DSCN7008Then there’s the greenhouse, new last spring, and not exactly justifying its presence. I managed to overwinter geraniums and sow some cut-and-come-again salad in November (which we ate on Boxing day) and is sort of still with us, but I need to get planting – now! And the vegetable plot which is… well embarrassing.


At least the garden is awash with fat buds, snowdrops and winter aconites.


Then there are exciting developments in my research on the letters to Far East POWs … I just need a ten-day week, and I’ll be fine.

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, 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.

The workshop in the dining room and a sunset

I’m not sure what law I’m invoking, but whatever DIY job I take on, tool by tool, the workshop slowly transfers itself to some unsuitable room in the house. This time it is the dining room.

DSCN4328I swear I only needed a ruler, a set square, some paste, a brush, a set of ladders and some cloths. Two weeks later the dining room has lost its identity under cardboard boxes full of the extra tools required.


It will be worth all the effort when winter finally arrives. We have lined many of our thin outer walls with wool fibre thermal lining paper (you can just paint over the top).

DSCN4329 We have also added some incredibly simple magnetic secondary glazing, purchased online from the wonderful There are real, helpful people who answer emails and the phone.

Yesterday after spending all day trying to finish off the walls, I went outside for a break and this is what I saw.





Spoiled for choice – writer’s support network

My writing has been stalled because I had finished one project and was in desperate need of feedback on the other two.

The project, an article on my airman uncle (A Very Unlikely Hero) had been sent to a specialist blogger. My non-fiction (Writing to a Ghost: Letter to the River Kwai) was being read, as a favour, by a wonderfully meticulous friend and my re-re-re revised fiction book (Border Line) was in a queue to a busy writing friend.Two days ago my writing frustration peaked and I also felt a need of independent professional advice for some tricky chapters. So I sent them off to Sally Jenkins, who had done such a swift and helpful job on the synopsis, agent letter and first chapter of Border Line.

Later that same day the blogger, Pierre Lagacé, of Lest we Forget, came up trumps and starting posting a new blog using parts of my article on my Mosquito Navigator uncle at I am thrilled with this.

Yesterday my friend, Lesley, came round with a wonderfully annotated manuscript of my non-fiction book and some very good advice.

Today, to my amazement, Sally Jenkins came through with the critique of my tricky chapters in Border Line. Her speed of turnaround only equalled by the seriously helpful advice on my chapters.

Writing is something of a game of snakes and ladders. Today I am on a ladder. Back at my desk, I feel like a bee in clover – totally happy and busy though spoiled for choice about which manuscript to tackle first. It is this wonderful network of support from people we know and, in this new age, those we have never met that make writing possible.

This state of affairs has been very good for the house. DIY flourished, I have insulated a tricky section of bay wall with thermal lining, put up a pane of secondary glazing and ordered more lining, glazing panels etc.

(And my L reg. Nissan passed its MOT!)

Hydrangea paniculata in one year and garden works

We bought this a year ago and were impressed by its growth in its first season.


This year, it really decided to get up and go.


We have now re-sealed the big wooden shed around its base – a job that has been waiting for nearly ten years! We have relaid the wobbly bricks in front of said shed and repainted both bay windows on the front of the house.

It can rain tomorrow if it wants.