Showing posts from June, 2013

Dry stone walling up a mountain

I can't now quite remember how we came to join a group of volunteers repairing dry stone walls in Snowdonia.  Erica and I were looking for something to do together.  We had walked the Offa's Dyke Path but she is not really a walker.  She had cycled from Land's End to John O' Groats but I am certainly not a cyclist.  So the idea of spending a week learning how to do something new emerged a way of spending some time together which has become harder to do now that we don't work together any more and live at different ends of the country. We whizzed in from our visit to the Hebrides, threw laundry into the machine and I whizzed out the next day, leaving Ian back in charge of FIL.  What to expect?  I had no idea. First impressions of the bunkhouse were good.  I am a bit old for communal sleeping and I wasn't looking forward to bunk beds in a dormitory so it was a relief to find comfortable single beds with a bit of privacy provided by wooden screening panels.  I

The Outer Hebrides

When the children were younger we had campervans. First for years an old VW, blue and white and cheerful like a fridge magnet.  It looked lovely but it was slowwwww.... and a bit noisy.  Then we had a newer white one with a high top roof.  It went all over the place, up to Scotland, down to France, all over the UK.  It broke down in Brittany and was taken away on a low loader to a vast garage.  This gave us a few unexpected days camping in  the van awning and the little support tents for the kids while Ian rode his bike out to the garage every day to talk to a French mechanic with a cigarette hanging from his lip and a classic line in shrugs.  We were heading for the French Alps and had not expected to spend a third of our holiday in a municipal site in Northern France.  The kids still remember La Fere with fondness, Ian oddly less so. Then they got too big for campers and the white van began to create quite a bit of black smoke when it drove away and we gave up campers, always think


Some things move you.  Other things leave you cold.  Meadows move me, real ones, not synthetic jump on the bandwagon ones.  Trees move me, big trees, native trees, the trees on our boundary: oak and ash and hawthorn and holly.  Bedding plants don't.  Lavender hedges move me.  Roses grown on swags of rope don't.  Bluebells and sea pinks move me.  Begonias don't.  I don't know why.  I could have a go at trying to explain but it is not all rational.  Wisteria moves me.  It always has.  It is ludicrous in some ways.  It is a plant which is so over the top it could be a climbing, rampaging begonia, and yet somehow its lushness and its falls of flower stay just this side of kitsch.  It remains subtle, even whilst taking your breath away.  The delicacy of the leaf pattern reminds me of rowan and ash trees, both of which I love.  The flowers are like coming upon a waterfall.  A few years ago my parents lived in a house in Devon which had been a small manor house and had then

Stilling the mind

What do you do when your mind gets stuck in a track, running round and round in a repetitive, fruitless worrying at something you can do nothing about?  It doesn't happen to me often.  I don't think of myself as an anxious person at all.  I am naturally quite calm and even tempered, cheerful by default, inclined to have a good time whenever I can with family and friends, good company, a glass of wine and good food.  So it always surprises me when one of the inevitable anxieties of life somehow gets a hold of me and I find my mind running round and round with it, like a hamster on a wheel. Sometimes gardening helps but it didn't today.  I was weeding down in the native tree bed.  The mindless, repetitive nature of pulling weeds can be calm and soothing, the sun on my back, almost like a meditation.  But today all that mindless repetition  just seemed to allow me to run round and round in my mindless nagging worry.  I tried all the stuff about mindfulness, concentrating on

Plant me now drop

A bit of a family crisis whizzed me away for a few days.  I suppose this will happen from time to time now with my father's illness.  It is always hard to know whether the right thing to do is to drop everything and go or whether to sit it out up here.  This time I did drop everything and went and that was undoubtedly the right thing to do.  I ran around sorting things out and sat around keeping both my parents company and my sister and I shared some of the problems and felt, as always, how lucky we are to have each other.  I left still feeling I could stay and that there was more be done.  And now I am home again, feeling torn as ever, and also feeling out of touch with my normal life. Time to take stock of what has been happening in the garden. Just before I went I received another load of plants from Plant me Now, the online garden centre which has been asking me to test and review plants.  This time it is bedding plants, something I don't normally use a lot of.  It do