School dinners – a blast from the past


In search of inspiration for this ridiculous blogging daily challenge I have inflicted on myself  I came across some prompts and one of them was to write about your school lunches.  Strange I know but apparently it leads you to tap into your childhood, explore emotions etc and is meant to be a real cure for writer’s block so here goes…..

My school lunches occurred mainly in the 1970s and I can just about remember the free milk before Mrs Thatcher removed it.  I remember being a milk monitor and we had to hand out the little milk bottles and give our classmates blue and white stripy straws to push through the metal caps.  Then we had to collect up the metal caps and wash them and bag them up as I seem to remember that they went off for some form of early recycling.  As I write this I can recall the horrid smell of stale milk that hung around you all day when you were milk monitor.  Even now I am super sensitive to the smell of milk on the turn.

As for the lunches well school lunches are the reason why I don’t, well can’t, eat a number of things including mashed potato, scrambled eggs, baked beans, pilchards, spam fritters and tinned fruit.  We used to have sittings for dinner, for some reason it was called dinner, which always confused me as we also had dinner in the evening.  There were two sittings and one class from each year attended each sitting.  So in junior school there were 4 years (I think) with two pupils from each year on a table for 8.  The two children from the oldest year served the other children.  I remember the food used to be served up in what seemed to be vast metal containers – big bowls and trays.

Spam fritters - yuk!

Spam fritters – yuk!

So why don’t I like those foodstuffs above.  Well the mashed potato was full of bits and a strange shade of grey, the scrambled egg always seemed to be swimming in liquid, and as for the pilchards well…  I distinctly remember when I was in the top year my friend Jane and I were in charge of a table.  One day we had a large tray of pilchards to dish up but that day we had been taught some basic biology looking at fish reproductive systems.  So my friend Jane, who went on to be a doctor, decided we needed to find out whether each fish was male or female before we served it. Our poor table mates had to endure dissected fish that day and to be honest I haven’t eaten pilchards in tomato sauce since.

The puddings were always a little bit more enjoyable and maybe this explains why I still have a preference for pudding.  We had a wonderful pudding called chocolate crunch which didn’t appear very often and would always cause rumours to go around the playground building our anticipation. It was so popular that the school printed copies of the recipe.  Then there was the pink custard always a delight and often distracting from the dry sponge that accompanied it.  Pink blancmange, or shaving foam as we called, it was also popular – no doubt in the 1970s full of early colouring chemicals. But the one that really divided the vote was what we called ‘blood, skin and bones’ – don’t you love children’s humour.  This pudding was essentially a layer of pastry (bone), covered in jam (blood), and topped with a layer of cold custard (skin).  I hate cold custard so I would have to scrap that bit off.

pink custard

I remember we had Christmas dinner which always seemed a real treat as it was a proper turkey dinner and then steamed Christmas pudding.  We had to sing ‘ Bring us some figgy pudding‘ to the cooks (cooks not chefs then) before we were allowed the pudding.  I remember quite clearly staff holding up large sheets of paper with the words.

But there is always one story from your school days that stands out and for me it was when the school hall caught fire just as the first sitting were going in for dinner.  The exterior was being redecorated and the painters had set fire to the roof timbers with paint strippers.  The roof quickly caught and the whole school was evacuated to the playground.  For us, of course, it was hugely exciting but I can imagine now that the staff found it quite challenging.  They had to control a school of generally excitable children and find a way to feed us that day when the hall where we ate was on fire and I am sure the kitchens adjourning it were affected.  Luckily it was a sunny day so we were all taken to the playing field and food appeared which we ate sitting on the ground.  I have no idea what it was and I suspect we weren’t that bothered as the fire engines putting out the fire were far more interesting.  Due to the amount of water used to put out the fire the wood block floor was ruined and so we had what seemed like weeks of having to have our cooked dinners in various classrooms.  Looking back it must have been a nightmare for the staff and I can only admire their resilience but of course at the time we were less than helpful, complaining that our class room was being used for lunches, and generally moaning about anything we could.

Going to senior school dinners did not improve despite it being a private school.  I recall a lot of mince, a horrid curry which stank of curry powder and seemed to have a yellow glow about it (probably why I’m not that keen on curry) and something disgusting called chicken supreme which just looked bad.  The blancmange and tinned fruit continued.  Again we had tables with pupils from each year on and often a teacher, they were larger tables and the worst table to get was the headteacher’s as she made you eat everything or you were in detention – nightmare. I also remember pea catapulting competitions using the plastic flip tops to the water jugs. But I also remember dreading being on clean up duty as we had to scrap the plates into the pig swill buckets and wash the tables down with washing up cloths which stank.  I feel quite ill at the memory.

There were no packed lunches, the whole idea was alien to us.  Some children at junior and primary school went home for their dinners and you would think we envied them but children being children we always thought they must have something wrong with them to warrant special treatment.

Whilst I might have retained some aversions to certain foods it certainly didn’t do me any harm and there was rarely any fried food, well apart from the greasy spam fritters, so I presume it was relatively healthy for the time. There was also no real option to be fussy, you just went hungry.  It is interesting though the impact they had on my food preferences now.  My mother has never come to terms with me hating mashed potato especially as she makes very good, so I am told by everyone, mashed potato but then again she hates brassicas which goes back to her being a war baby and having to eat plates of boiled cabbage which smelt terrible; a memory that is still very keen for her.

And now I have written this I feel an overwhelming need for something large and chocolatey the remove the horrid smell and taste memories that have returned.

JOMO or FOMO – Which are You?

Day 12 of NaBloMoPo finds me delving into my saves on Facebook for inspiration and coming up with this Youtube interview with the wonderful Claudia Winkleman.  I love Claudia, she just makes me smile and I relate to a lot of her attitudes apart from the black eye liner and tippex mouth.

Anyway the thing that really jumped out at me was her reference to JOMO (around 6.4 on the clip). Not an acronym I had encountered before but definitely one I can relate to.  It stands for Joy of Missing Out and is the opposite of the other urban acronym FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.  I am sure we have all been through the latter including myself;  worrying about not being invited to a party or some other event.  I have spent far too many hours on Twitter for fear of missing out on something, I’m not even sure what, but whatever it is I have managed quite well in recent months, since I stopped bothering much with Twitter, without it

But JOMO is really me these days.  Like Claudia I have enjoyed getting older and yes I know I might not be saying that in 10 or 20 years time but as I face my 50th birthday early next year I feel more content with the world than ever.  I am almost comfortable with who I am, my confidence has grown, I don’t care as much as I used to what people think about me or if my appearance is fashionable, or even some days acceptable!  My children are off living their lives, I am well paid, I have my own home, and currently good health – why would I want to go back to teenage angst, or struggling to bring up children on my own in my 20s and 30s.  No, now I am in my 40s I am content and I have got to that point where I really don’t care if I miss out on something, if I can have a quiet evening in, watch some rubbish on the television or read a book that, these days, is a real luxury.

Interestingly if you read the definition I have linked to for JOMO it specifically refers to social media and if I am honest in comparison to how much time I have spent on social media in the past the amount of time I spend now is negligible. I am even bad at reading blogs which is awful as I expect people to read mine, so apologies for that;   I do keep trying to be better.  But I do feel, certainly in my life and the people around me, that the enthusiasm for social media is waning.  My sons hardly go on social media at all and I know that many people I used to follow on Twitter or Facebook are posting less and less so I wonder if our love affair with social media is cooling off.  I was an early adopter of Twitter and used to love the instantaneous conversations you could have but now it is clogged up with advertising, people getting on their band-wagon or people RT-ing things; the conversation has all but disappeared.  Now I find the only conversations I have on social media are through Facebook and those are few and far between, or through the comments on a blog.  For me what I want is somewhere you can interact with people without having to struggle through all the other stuff, just as I would prefer to meet friends somewhere quiet rather than in the middle of a noisy bar or club.  Maybe its me getting older or maybe its just that with such a busy and demand job the times of quiet and peace have become all the more important to me.

So I am, like Claudia, totally JOMO.

Note: I found the original interview on The Pool which is a great website aimed at women who do not have time to browse the internet.  I tends to be my lunchtime reading these days as opposed to twitter or facebook.

If we were having tea right now…..


If we were having a cup of tea right now I would be telling you about my fab weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference. I learnt all sorts of things, many of them not to do with plants.  For example I learnt that New Zealand’s only native mammals are bats (is that right Yvonne?) which makes it strange that the Speargrass (Aciphylla), a native, is a very prickly thing when there is no need for it to be as there were no browsing natives!!

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you that I am very weary as I didn’t get to bed until 1am due to gossiping in the bar last night, I am getting too old for such outrageous behaviour

If we were having a cup of tea right now I will admit to buying two more books today: Autumn Bulbs by Rod Leeds and The Well-Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. Manning the second hand book stall this morning was quite reassuring as it appears my book purchasing addiction is not unusual.  It occurred to me that us plantaholics seem to often also be book mad and if we aren’t buying some plant to shoe-horn into our garden, we are buying a book to shoe-horn on to a bookshelf.  We are just collectors looking for things to collect.

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you how pleased I am that I got to buy some fresh Hepatica japonica seed as well as some narcissus and lily bulbils.  Last year I didn’t notice that certain seeds sent into the AGS seed exchange which have to be sown fresh or bulbils which won’t travel well in the usual packaging were available so I was determined this year not to miss out on this one day opportunity.  I will have to make sure I get sowing next weekend.

If we were having a cup of tea right now I would tell you that I am wondering what possessed me to sign up to the NaBloMoPo challenge this month.  I have two days this week where I won’t be home from work until probably 8:00/8:30.  On top of this as I was away for the weekend I have had little opportunity to take photographs in the garden and I didn’t take any at the conference so I don’t have many prompts or ideas for posts – oh dear, I will have to get my thinking hat on.

If we were having a cup of tea right now (and you were into plants) I would be asking you why you don’t join the AGS.  You don’t have to be interested in the ubiquitous cushion plants or those you might associate with rockeries.  ‘Alpine’ covers all sorts of bulbs, in fact most bulbs that aren’t tender (and even that isn’t always stuck to) as well as those plants that grow in the wooded foothills so things like Peonies, Aquilegia, Primulas, some delphiniums, and my favourite, ferns.  But more importantly as well as having access to the wonderful AGS seed distribution scheme you can go to events like this weekend and meet all sorts of passionate plants people and hear fascinating talks which continue over lunch or dinner – such a nice change to work.

To write or to garden, that is the question

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I am a passionate gardener, so my response to today’s Writing 101 prompt about what I do when not writing is easy.

The majority of my time is spent at a PC in my office at the University where I am an administrator so in fact I spend the majority of my time writing something or other at home or at work.

Gardening is my mechanism for de-stressing.  It allows me time to clear my mind either through day dreaming about wild and mad schemes for the garden or in complete contrast  focussing on something small and precise such as peering into a pot of compost convincing myself that that small green dot is in fact the sign that a seed is germinating.  At times of extreme stress I find that just 20 minutes pottering around the garden dead heading and watering calms and soothes and then I can come back to whatever it is that is troubling me with a clearer mind.

In recent years much as been made of how good gardening is for your health.  It is something that is beginning to be recognised as useful in the recovering of people who have experienced severe trauma.  But of course gardening is good for our physical well-being as well as our mental.  It is a good form of gentle exercise, gets you out in the fresh air and keeps you active.  It will never be a form of burning off lots of excess calories, well not unless you regularly dig over something like an allotment, but it keeps everything moving.  I am reminded that when I was visiting gardens in Ireland earlier this year we met a number of older gardeners, one who was 87 and had a huge garden, and each of them believed whole heartedly that it was their gardening passion which had contributed to their longevity.

But I am drifting off topic.  The specific question asked what I do to recharge, rebalance and clear my mind for writing.  Whilst gardening is key to this and so much else that is important to me I also embroider and read.  Reading means I encounter ideas that might inspire me and I experience writing styles which may influence my own writing.  Both gardening and sewing give me material for writing but they also give me the space between work and leisure time so my mind can readjust and find the voice I want for whatever I am writing.   So for me it is important to have a good balance in your life if you want to be able to write.





An Open Letter to the Worldwide Web

Image result for worldwide web

Dear Worldwide Web

Or if I maybe familiar www, I am writing to express my amazement and appreciation of the contribution you have made since you emerged in our world nearly 25 years ago.

My sons are oblivious of the world before it had a worldwide web but as a child of the 60s I am constantly amazed at how we managed without you.  I am befuddled as to how you do what you do but I am grateful that I can search your resources for cultivation information on some obscure plant, I can order a last-minute present for my niece without traipsing around the town looking for  inspiration, my mother can email her brothers on the other side of the world, my son can set out his wares in the job market in an innovative way and I can find a recipe for dinner tonight – all from the comfort of our sofas.  Through you the world has become smaller, we can meet people from nearly anywhere in the world, and most importantly nearly everyone can access information.

Information is power, through knowledge and education we can shape our world and make informed choices.  But sometimes the information is too much, it appears too quickly, we are overwhelmed by images of tragic and difficult events, we no longer have the buffer zone of distance and editorship.  We can react to images without always considering the broader context, and our views can be influenced by clever manipulation of what we see. There are some that abuse your resources, to prey on the vulnerable and who use it to cause unhappiness and hate amongst us.

I think you are one of most significant inventions of the last two centuries. Your creation has revolutionised the world as much or more than the combustion energy and discovery of nuclear power. But, the human race needs to learn how to manage your power and capabilities.  Like a child with a new toy we are obsessed and seek to find answers to everything in you.  We need to remember that most of the things we use you for we could do just as well, albeit it maybe slower, before you arrived and I am sure you will forgive me if I would still rather pick up and read a printed book or have a chat on the telephone with a friend.

Thank you for opening my eyes to things and people I knew nothing about but this evening I will be ignoring you and reading my book.


This was written as an assignment on Writing 101 – the brief was to write an open letter to so

Why do I write?

Why do I write?  Because I can’t help myself.  I need to let out the thoughts and whitterings that run around my mind.  As Sylvia Plath said:

“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”

I am a restless soul with a mind like a mad chirping bird that flits from one thing to another.  I try to calm my mind, to focus on one thing but its a struggle. Mental multi-tasking would be my super-hero quality but …. and its a big BUT when I have written, be it in a diary or on my blog, especially when I write from the heart my busy mind is calm.

I think the process of writing makes me focus on one thing, banishing other thoughts away, and sometimes I let it help me sort through tangled thoughts and muddled priorities.  I often don’t publish my most heart-felt ramblings but the act of writing them down is sufficient.

What do I write about, well mainly my garden and gardening but I want to explore other types of writing.  I write a lot at work as well but these are reports so a different style of writing, very concise and dry – my mind flits a lot when I do this writing.

I started blogging because I wanted to connect with other gardeners and to be honest with gardeners more of my generation than the older generation that inhabits most garden clubs.  I wanted to find people who were plant addicts, who got excited when the seeds for some unusual or difficult plant germinated.  I have been writing this blog for over 8 years and it has held me in good stead.  It has provided me with a rock during times of extreme difficulty, a safe place where I could forget for a while the troubles and tribulations that were assaulting my being.  It has allowed me to see places and become involved in events that I would never had been able to without the virtual connections I have made. Writing has enabled me to draw out the real me.  A me that had lost its self-belief and confidence after a difficult and abusive marriage and other equally destructive relationships.  A me that felt guilty for being a single parent, a me worried about how society judged me, a me frightened of my own shadow.  Through this blog I have learnt to trust my instincts, to listen to my heart rather than my head and to believe in myself.  It has given me confidence and self-esteem.

But (yes another but) I feel a need to improve my writing, maybe to develop it, I don’t know.  My life is going through significant changes both at home and at work, it has led to a surge of tidying up, obviously due to a need to be in some sort of control, sorting out of cupboards, drawers etc and I think my mind.  I feel as though I am exiting from a grey oppressive place that I have inhabited more on than off,  I feel as though I am beginning to like myself, to accept myself and not feel as though I need to apologise so much for just being…well me. Liking yourself is not always an easy thing to do.

So as part of this unintended tidying up, sorting out, improving I signed up to Writing 101 (and Blogging 101) hence this post – my first assignment.  Apologies for regular gardening fans but the blog may go a little off-piste over the coming days but who knows you may enjoy it.  I hope I do.




Happy Easter


As I said back at Christmas I am not a religious being and so I don’t celebrate Easter.  However, I enjoy the long Easter weekend as it is an opportunity to spend time with my sons and mother.  Having four days is a luxury, you can embark on a proper project, you can take time doing something rather than trying to fit it into a weekend, you can sit and stop and just listen.  2015_04030016

I keep a garden diary although the entries tend to be sporadic.  I was reading back through it last night and it was very interesting to see that I was saying some of the same things back in 2012 as I am today such as I want to spend more time focussing on gardening well.  It also recorded my decision to give up the allotment, a decision I have never regretted and my initial enthusiasm for alpines and showing and then my gradual loss of interest.  There are plans I have carried out such as the new seating area and others that never moved beyond a whimsy in my diary such as the mad lozenge shaped grass stepping stones when I was persuading myself to give up the lawn.  2015_04030014

I can sense my battle with grief back in 2012 and 2013 after losing my sister in my descriptions of extreme tiredness which I now recognise as the bereavement process. I also noted how my tone changed as I discovered some new gardening clubs and started to make real gardening friends. My local HPS group has been a lifeline to me over the past 7 months since losing Dad. But throughout the diary is a recurring need to learn more and a clear love of plants and how they grow. Anyone who questions the healing nature of gardening has obviously never spent a quiet evening as the sun goes down slowly working through a border, weeding, and listening to the sound of the birds.  You lose yourself, the stresses and strains of life float away.


So to all my readers whatever your religious persuasion I would like to wish you a happy Easter break and may you find it a recharging and relaxing time, hopefully with your family and loved ones.


My Garden this Weekend – 25th January 2015


With a little sunshine this weekend and a slight increase in the temperatures the first hellebores are starting to open.  This is the plant that hooked me on hellebores some 7 years ago.  I used to use it as my avatar on twitter and Blotanical.  It is one of the Ashwood hybrids and I love the yellow and red combination.

Galanthus Selborne Green Tips

Galanthus Selborne Green Tips


The mystery snowdrop has opened and I am none the wiser.  I know where and when I bought it but I can find nothing written down in my notebooks or on the blog about what it is.  Ho-hum

At last I have found the label for the snowdrop – Galanthus Selborne Green Tip


Although I like the special snowdrops I have bought I still feel more anticipation at waiting for the clumps of ordinary Galanthus nivalis to open.  I also have the double Galanthus nivalis Flora Pleno which is already beginning to spread despite only being planted just over a year ago.

Eranthis hyemalis

Eranthis hyemalis

Eranthis grunling

Eranthis grunling

Eranthis schwefelglanz

Eranthis schwefelglanz

My eranthis are beginning to appear around the garden which is pleasing as some were only added a year ago.  Unlike the snowdrops I can tell the difference between these three.  Eranthis hyemalis is the ordinary one, schwefelglanz is a pale yellow and grunling has green stripes to the flowers. I think there are some more which I would like to collect, I heard tell of a double the other day so I will be seeking those out.


The very first daffodils in the garden are about to open.  I have no idea what variety they are, they came with the garden but they always flower early.  This picture amused me as I think they look like two geese or ducks – but then I may have a strange imagination.

I did find some time to do a few gardening tasks over the weekend although I found after an hour outside my toes were quite frozen despite several layers of socks.  I am pleased that I tidied up the driveway border in the front garden and also the Big Border.  The garden is looking more ready for Spring than it has in any other year which is satisfying although there are still some areas that I need to tackle but these will involve more heavy duty work and some shrub rearranging.  Today I mulched the woodland border just managing to get the wood bark down before the bulbs had emerge too much making it tricky.  Like many gardeners I have spent some time over the winter thinking about the garden and planning what I want to grow and plant over the coming season.


I am going through a period of working through various emotions and trying to work out, as much as is possible, what I would like to achieve in various aspects of my life.  I suspect this need to have a plan or objective is due to several uncertainties in my life that I have no control over at the moment.  One of the things I can control and plan is what I want to do in the garden over the coming season and what will make me happy.  I have mentioned over the last month how I have been inspired by some television programmes and books and I feel that I have a much clearer idea in my head of how I want the garden to develop, finally.  Part of this is re-engaging with my old love of growing plants from seed and in particular some annuals that I haven’t grown for years including rudbeckia and zinnias.  My pocket diary this year has the saying ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ on the front and I have taken this as my motto for the year.   I spent yesterday evening sorting through my box of seed packets and sorting out what I hope to sow this year and when, for no other reason than the flowers make me happy – no planning for shows etc.


Part of my frustrations come from only seeing the garden at weekends although already this is starting to change and I almost get home in day light.  I have invested in recent years in a number of miniature bulbs, partly with a view to showing, but also because I love their daintiness.  However, I don’t get to see them properly as they are in the greenhouse and its generally dark.  I don’t have the time, working full-time, to perfect the plants for showing and I am someone who needs to do something well if they are going to do it – I hate failing.  I have decided to put showing on the back burner until I can do it properly unless there is a show near home and I happen to have something looking good.  My friend, Dee, posted a picture of iris reticulata on Facebook today on display in her home and I think this is what I want to do more – bring the pots into the house as the bulbs are about to flower.  I have invested in a plunge bed and I hate waste so I have been exploring the possibility of converting it into a heated propagator which it seems is very feasible, thanks to advice from friends on twitter.  This will mean that the annuals etc I want to grow from seed and the cuttings I would like to try taking will get a better start so hopefully all will turn out for the best.

I sometimes think I should rename the blog – The Indecisive Gardener – as I change my mind so much.  I think some of this is due to the overload of images and information you can get via social media so I need to step back a little bit to let my head clear.  I spend a lot of time on social media in the evenings, especially at this time of year, as it’s a distraction and it stops me chewing my fingers (a very bad habit).  I had been doing some embroidery which I have blogged about before but the project I was working on is a little fiddly and I have been avoiding it so I have today ordered some new materials for  new project which should be a good distraction and a calming influence until the evenings are light enough for me to play in the garden after work.

7 Years of Blogging!

Iris unguicularis 'Water Butt'

Iris unguicularis ‘Walter Butt’

Well who would have thought it! I had a message from WordPress this morning congratulating me on 7 years of blogging! If you had asked me the other day how long I had been blogging for my standard answer would have been 5 years but then I never have a very good perception of time.

I remember distinctly starting out on this journey.  It was a cold January and I was bored and frustrated because I wanted to get outside.  I also felt a need to connect with others who shared my interest and I was struggling to find something locally.  I’m sure it was the weekend and I remember reading a gardening magazine which had an article in it about the new phenomena of garden blogs.  Being a real fan of the internet I was intrigued and when I saw the ‘starting a blog tutorial’ on My Tiny Plot I decided to have a go (sadly the tutorial no longer seems to be there).  I remember throwing various names for the blog around in my head for 24 hours, wondering whether I should really have a go, after all what did I know about gardening being a mere novice but My Tiny Plot’s blog was all about learning and sharing successes and failures so why not.

I had to ask my eldest to help me set up the blog – it was really a hand holding exercise but in less than 24 hours I was off.  After about a month of seeking out other gardening blogs and being frustrated because all I seemed to be able to find were UK veg growers and not ornamental gardening blogs I discovered Blotanical which back then was a rapidly growing network of gardening bloggers from across the world.  I relished reading Pam’s Digging blog – all exotic and exciting plants in her Texan garden and Dee’s blog showcasing her beautiful American cottage style garden.  There was so much choice and diversity, plants I have never heard of or seen.  I started to attract readers to my blog, the blog stats rocketed and I haven’t looked back since.

Sadly Blotanical seems to have closed down; a victim of its own success I suppose but those friendships made 7 years ago continue.  Since then I have found UK ornamental gardeners who share my passion for plants, I have met many bloggers including some of my US friends, I have had opportunities that I would never have had before such as helping build a Chelsea show garden, being on the radio etc but most of all I feel I have found my voice and confidence.

Blogging is now part of my life.  Sometimes I think I’ll take a break because I haven’t got anything to say but after a day or two I find myself missing the act of writing even if it’s waffle.  I have found it a great comforter over the last five years helping me work through my grief at losing my sister, Dad and a close work colleague.  At these times there are always readers who offer comfort and support and you find yourself lifted out of the dark despair to feeling more positive and finding a way forward.  I have been inspired with all sorts of ideas over the years and in some ways blogging and reading blogs has given me permission to do what I wish with my garden far more than any television programme or magazine could.

So thank you WordPress and my readers for all your support over the last 7 years….I wonder if I will still be blogging in another 7

My Garden This Weekend – 18th January 2015


As you can see the garden has had a dose of winter this weekend albeit short-lived with the majority of the snow having melted by Saturday lunchtime. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that it was too cold to do anything outside as all I wanted to do yesterday was hide inside.  I have been overcome with a tidal wave of grief which has crept up on me unexpectedly during the week, just like when you don’t notice the tide coming further up the beach.  It left me feeling emotional and close to tears for 48 hours not an ideal state of mind when you have to go to work.  It took  a while to identify it for what it was, going through all the usual others things, dismissing PMT, depression, concern about changes at work etc.  No it was grief, cold and hard and something you just have to accept and wait for it to pass.


I have been getting on with life over recent months, being busy, since Dad died and although I think about him a lot I have felt I was doing OK.  But grief has a habit of creeping up on you and engulfing you when you least expect it.  I suppose I am lucky in that I learnt to recognise and accept it for what it is about a year after my sister died thanks to a wonderful counsellor.  This time it was a book that bought everything to a head.  A beautifully written book, if the first chapter or two is to go by, H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  The book is about the author training a Goshawk but it is also about her coming to terms with the loss of her father.  Needless to say it starts with her reacting to the news her Dad had died and I suppose it struck at something deep down because I kept obsessing about one paragraph, where they are looking for the father’s car.  I can’t even talk about the story without crying but then again I don’t think that is a bad thing because I believe it is better to let these things happen rather than fight them. We do more damage to ourselves with the British stiff upper lip approach.


So the only gardening I did this weekend was to move things around in the greenhouse.  Rejigging the pots of bulbs so that those emerging have the best light and the late summer bulbs, such as nerines, are moved under the staging to rest for a while.


Sunday has been a better day.  Having recognised the grief for what it was, had a good cry, I woke up feeling like my old self again and ready to battle on.  I have been decorating the hall, landing and stairs, which means endless gloss work which I can doing in stages.  So after tackling some of the bannisters Mum and I went out for a jaunt to Ashwood Nurseries which is just over an hour from here.  My boss had given me some garden vouchers for Christmas and I had earmarked them for some more hellebores and some spring flowering shrubs.  A lot of research has been done in recent evenings and a mental wish list drawn up.


The choice at Ashwoods is extensive and always so well displayed.  I realised I have only visited at this time of year, the last time for a hellebore talk, so I must try to visit again through the year but if this is the quality of the display in early January I can only imagine how wonderful it will be in a few months.

I came home with 3 hellebores – Anna’s Red, Neon Star and Walbertons Rosemary which has been bred to look upwards, 3 heptica nobilis, a clivia and two dwarf rhododendrons that are part of my new planting plan for the border you can see in the second photograph.


We had a nice lunch, a laugh, talked about Dad, grief, glosswork (Mum is decorating too) and strangely bought a resin tortoise (a gift for my Aunt!).  We are going back in March for my birthday so Mum can treat me to something, probably for the border above.

As for the book …. it is safely back on the shelf waiting for such time as I feel more emotional able to read it.