Hello again hello. 

It’s the last week of July and after  a trip to Italy and a quick whizz around two NGS London open gardens I’m back in Spain. The open gardens were fab –  two very different London gardens. 

Jack Wallington garden was a revelation in what you can do in a small London garden. Great planting. Huge varieties and all plants labelled! Oh dear. Please don’t judge me Jack. I always forget what names. Let alone plants.  But jacks echiums are  giving us ideas for our new Mediterranean garden in Spain.  Other plants Ideas for our small London garden. Oh. And it’s open again on 10 September. 

Jack & Chris garden in Clapham

So after an abscence of three week what would the Spanish garden have in store.?  Well. Certainly drier than in London. I’d been panicking a bit about the heat. The temperatures are high. Even for summer. In the Andalusian hills. There is an irrigation system. And someone to go in and water. But…….

At the back of the house we have a slope. I’ve mentioned it before. The last time I went up there I itched for days. Was worried I’d encounter a snake. And we had an Italian experience. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that. 


 Was worried about fires so we arranged for it to be strimmed. I was asked. Why don’t you do it yourself – you’ve got the time. “Excuse me” I said. “Strimming an extremely dry slope in 30* heat dressed from head to toe in overalls.” Thanks. Maybe next year. So it was done. Not by me and looks so much better. The almond trees look better and there is a good crop. Quite what I’ll do with them is another question. . The figs are ripening and hopefully will be ready to pick when we have friends staying in the next two months. 

the almond trees
Almonds
Lovely figs. Waiting to ripen and turn black

The other side of the bank doesn’t look as great and needs some more planting. The prickly pears look like they are going down with a disease again this year. I know they were all cut to the ground last year and a skip filled between two houses. I’m hoping to have a mix of nespera, olives and some succulents dotted about. But the ground is as hard as iron. We need to wait for the rain. 

Down in the main  garden most of the plants were looking ok. Some are struggling in the heat. Even those that are drought tolerant.  There are three areas to the garden. The main area at the front of the house. Three beds. A lavender path. Some citrus. Some pots. To the side of the house and ro the back two sloping beds. Cactus. Succulents. Stuff.  The mandarin and lime that Ian wanted and are in pots are looking good. Plenty of mandarins. No limes this year. There will be next. 

The pearly agave in a pot is looking fab. Particularly  if you catch it in the right light. I’ve found another at the back of the house – I’m hoping they will flower. 

Pearly agave
When I left three weeks ago I thought the Stephanotis would flower and be over by the time I got back. Its in a large pot and has struggled a bit but there were still beautiful waxy blooms. As I tidied the plant up I found one single solitary fruit. I never knew that they could fruit – mind you I have only really seen them as pot plants. Indoors. Used in bridal bouquets apparently. Not mine. 

They smell lovely. 

Waxy stephanotis

I forgot to take a picture before I left  – the fruit has changed a lot in a week. Apparently the black silky seeds can be easily propagated. Not by me I fear. 

The fruit of the stephanotis

This border and the circle under the old olive tree is doing well. There are loads of olives. The strawberry mint I planted and which I thought had died is growing again. I didn’t think that even I would be able to kill mint. 

The lavender likes me being away. I tend to overwater. So it does better when I’m not there. 

The very mixed and confused border
I cleared a bit of the oleander next to the garage. And found a lovely plumbago. Struggling behind the oleander but the blue is lovely against the white of the garage. Now I know it’s there I’ll make sure it does well. ( right – as if ) 

Plumbago
The wall planting has one solitary red geranium flower – we are in between blooms. The scented pelargoniums are doing really well. I find them a bit boring. Insignificant flowers. But boy. As you brush past the scent is delicious. And they are pretty hardy in the dry. 


I also found that there are six quinces on the quince tree. Well what else would you expect? But I was surprised. Now to see what I can do with them. 

Quince

I’ve mentioned before that my mother was the queen of deadheading. Something she instilled in me. I’m not as bad as her – I don’t walk up anyone’s path and deadhead as I go. She did. But these little flowers drive me insane. I’m forever taking off the dead ones. I mean forever. 

The agapanthus have finished and are setting seed. I’m going to let a lot self seed this year. There are a lot of plants. I have space for more. Don’t I? But I have been making a note of some really dark ones. There have been some great suggestions of new agapanthus for me to look at on twitter this last month. 

The shade of the olive tree

It’s not all been gardening. I managed a day wandering around town taking some photographs. But the heat defeated me.  I had to sit in the square people watching. That was so hard to do. For hours. 

The sunsets are awesome and are something I don’t think I will tire of. Glorious from our terrace.  The sun was so red and bright in the sky as it went down behind the mountains. 

The town of Competa. A 10 min drive from the house. A glorious white washed Andalusian town. Nestling on the hillside. 

The hanging houses of Competa

So I’m home for just over a week and then back to Spain for three. It was supposed to be only a week in August but we have visitors coming for another week – and we can’t not be there with them. Not when it’s our two favourite boys arriving with their parents. Wouldn’t be right would it.

 Ian will be there for a week as planned.  Largely to drink wine. On 15 August the town celebrates its wine festival – NOCHE DEL VINO: – which starts with the wine treading  on the Plaza de la Vendimia. Then goes on all night.  Not that we will. We also have. A friend staying for that. But we are also heading to the Alhambra. In August. In the heat. But it will be worth it. It’s such a stunning place. 

I also found some gardens that open near to Granada. Though we may not have time this time. 

But. As I left the forecast for the end of this week is 41*. With night time temperatures of 24. Who know what I will find next week!! I’m sure I’ll tell you though.  

Lovely day for a white wedding – my day in the life of Common Farm Flowers

Have I mentioned I’ve retired. Just once or twice I’m sure. The joy of being retired means I am able to do different things. Able to indulge. Whether it is gardening or travelling. Meeting people I have been engaged with ( rather than to ) on social media over the years. One of my biggest joys has been the opportunity to spend time at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Newbery. The flower farmer of British grown flowers. Grown not flown.  It’s well known I’m a huge fan. I buy flowers. Have attended workshops. Wandered the garden. 


Over the last 18 months Georgie has allowed me to be part of the team at Common Farm Flowers to assist on busy days whether it be for Mothering Sunday,Easter, Christmas or one of my favourites – big wedding days. My friend Lorraine Pullen and I roped in as part of what Georgie calls ‘the dream team’ working alongside Georgie and Sharon in the flower studio. Who would have thought that 18 months ago I was pushing a pen around a bit of paper in Canary Wharf – not the actual Wharf but in a building on it – and now I’m occasionally pushing gorgeous British flowers into fantastic flowery arrangements. And loving it. Totally. 

Georgie – not me

I was delighted to have been asked again last week to help out with a white wedding. So delighted I arranged my holidays around it. 

 The bride had asked for white.  Previous weddings I had helped with were more colourful so I wasn’t sure about all white to be honest. But hey. What do I know. I’m just the work experience guy in this! Georgie had mentioned that the studio was full of around 4,000 stems. I’d seen the studio full before but boy. Was it full. And white. A small corner of colour for the bouquets going out that day. But predominately white.  I love the studio but when it’s full of flowers, scent in the air it’s awesome. 


The list was long. Brides bouquet. 4 bridesmaids. Button holes. Two large arrangements for pedestals for the church. A local Rural church  in Cucklington whose records date back to 1291.  One for the Norman font – a glorious arrangement warranted for such a historic structure. .  Garlanding for the church entrance. Garlanding for the tipi in the field for the reception.  Little arrangements for the gates of the church. All white. With green foliage. The list was endless. Where to start. How about a cuppa tea and a croissant.  I came armed with goodies. 

I’d called in the day before.  right’ says Georgie cracking the whip ‘ ‘ early start tomorrow’  she reminds me . There’s a lot to get through. Say 8.30. Thanks. Did I mention I’m retired. 8.30! I work gentlemans  hours – some say I always did. But for Georgie and the joy the day gives me I’d be there at 6. But don’t tell her that. Please. 

My role for the day is to make a start on the 15 table arrangements – oh I forgot those in the list- oblong arrangements with a hurricane lamp and candle for the centre. 

15. That’s not too bad I thought.  That’s not what I thought hours later with an aching back and cross eyed from looking for gaps. 

First job was to soak the oasis. Thanks Sharon – she had done it already. Team work that. I love Sharon. We work well together. She laughs at my jokes. She eats more cake than I do. Doesn’t mind my teasing her. And is brilliant at what she does. Sharon gets on with the garlanding. My job is easy compared to hers. That’s what I think. She just quietly gets on with it. In between answering the telephone. Life at the flower farm goes on. Despite 4,000 blooms sitting waiting to be arranged. 

The table arrangements taking shape

Make sure that the whole of the oasis is covered with green foliage says Georgie. Ok. That shouldn’t be difficult. I’ll be finished by lunchtime. Hmmm. 

First I go cutting ivy. A wheelbarrow full ready to make a start.  Which isn’t enough. I have to go cut more. Thankfully there is a lot.  I can’t go wrong cutting Ivy. 

Hello ivy

Along with a whole host of other foliage. Including Rosemary – eucalyptus, camelia, lots of trachelium as greenery. Oh. And more ivy. More eucalyptus. 

Sharon concentrates on getting the garlands made. These will be amazing  at the end of the day. Great attention to detail. Worrying if she should add more. Or less. If less is more. If I’ll ever shut up up telling her she’s missed a bit. It’s really interesting how adding a different flower actually lifts the garlands. One minute you wonder – then with a small addition it lights up. 


How hard is it I’d thought. 15 table arrangements to green up before the flowers go in. Can’t be that bad. Right. As soon as you think it’s done you look again and I can see a bit of oasis. If I can see it the boss lady will too. Eyes like a hawk. . Turn it around. There’s another. How much more foliage will it take. Let me tell you. Loads. And loads. And when you think your done. Loads more. I hear The boss say ‘ I don’t want to see any of that oasis’ – yes boss. Before we start adding white flowers. And then more white flowers. 

Meanwhile Georgie is full on with bouquet and pedestal duty. Oh and in between some colourful bouquets for a 50th to be delivered later. Life isn’t only about tomorrow! There are orders to take. Other flowers to arrange. Kids to sort. 


There is constant banter between us. We are missing Loraine who because of injury – not a flower arranging injury… but the banter continues.  She always joins in. And gets us singing along to cheesy tunes. I miss Lorraine. She’s a diamond. Like me retired. A whole different life in the police behind her and it’s great to spend days like today as a team. That’s one thing I do miss in retirement. Team work.  Common Farm works as a team. With Georgie at the helm. 

I’d like to say that this is  Sharon and I playing peek a boo over the flower tables. But it’s not. This is sharon checking for gaps. The garland will be high up and needs to be covered. I love this photo. Not only is it fun. It shows the attention to detail that Common Farm Flowers applies to the arrangements. Flowers. Friends. Fun. What more could I ask for. Other than another piece of cake. A cuppa tea. A sit down. 

I was wrong about white. I like colour. But the white flowers were gorgeous. I’ll take a deep breath and try and remember what we used –  Antirrhinums, sweet peas, feverfew, philadelphus, daisies, astrantia, limonium, jasmine, larkspur, delphinium, stocks, Ammi, roses, scabious, all looking awesome in the arrangements. Bears breeches to give height to the large arrangements for the altar.  Ammi dancing and floating in the arrangements. The large floating heads dancing above the rest. Posh cow parsley someone said. Maybe. But I love it. I must actually look up pink cow parsley which I saw in the garden at Ardraich in Scotland. The stocks smell delicious. The small white roses look awesome.  The larger more open roses fill the spaces. Will look even better tomorrow – I hope! 


The large arrangements for the altar at the lovely local Church are given height with lovely bears breeches. To stand magnificently in the little rural church. 



I’m also ‘odd job’. Collecting the cuttings. Of which there  are many.  Many trips to the compost. All organic here at Common Farm Flowers. 


Or being sent out to cut the white roses to be used for the rose petal confetti. I love that. Being sent to the cutting garden on my own. That means I’ve been promoted. Trusted to cut on my own! Hurrah. I spend more time admiring the flower patches than I should. I’ll make up for it by making lunch. Which I do. Make shift pizzas. Alcoholic lollies. 


The day is long. Tiring. I’m not used these days to hard work. Standing for hours. Bending. Having to constantly ask questions to Georgie. To Sharon. What should I do! Is this short enough? What flowers should be used next.? Told how many of each. For me the day ends at 7. The  large arrangements have been delivered to the church. A bit of a panic over the altar cloth. Me ironing another. Did I say I was odd job.. too right. One thing my mother said I should be able to do was iron a shirt and sew a button on. Which I can. Oh. And bake a cake. 

All that’s left is for the rest of the flowers to be delivered the following morning and put in place. I’m not there for that bit.  But it doesn’t stop me worrying that all is well. That the flowers haven’t dropped in the night. That they like them. That I haven’t messed up in any way. That I won’t be asked back. 

The following photos are courtesy of Georgie. To show the flowers in place. In the Church. In the tipi. At the gate. The sun came out and The flowers were fabulous. I’m sure the bride was fabulous too.  A lovely day for a white wedding. 

Here comes the Bride
I declined from joining  in the photo. I’d didn’t want to spoil the bouquet!  Ian was already traumatised when I said I was seeing Georgie about wedding flowers. I didn’t want to give him a heart attack.  He said we’d done it twice without flowers. No need for a third ceremony. Just for flowers. 

Georgie wrote about using white in the tipi for wedding flowers. Top tips for the tipi! Go look at her Blog here for inspiration. 

Garlanding on the church entrance
Garland in the centre of the tipi
The lovely church pedestals

So what does a flower farmer do when he or she has finished. Take photos of what has been created. 

The day after the wedding Georgie received a letter from the bridegrooms father. Saying how lovely the flowers were. That for me makes my aching back. My tired legs all worth while.  

For  my small contribution to the day. 

For my part I’m hoping that I get asked back again to continue my valuable ‘work experience’ along with Lorraine who is my senior and with Georgie and Sharon. That is if If Sharon hasn’t asked that don’t return unless it’s without my camera. Especially without my camera and my ability to take some awful pictures of her. Taken unawares.  But not for here! Plus my constant requests of ‘ can I turn the lights off please’ . I’ll go back with almost any conditions! Almost. 

Information on Common Farm Flowers can be found here. Great place to order bouquets – I know – I have ordered a few in my time! Great workshops too.  Oh. And wedding flowers. 

More garden adventures 

So here we are. Back again. This is the time that we were expecting to collect the keys to Casa Verano Eterno.  But the transaction was completed two weeks early. So we are back. Ian for a short visit. Me 10 days. Hurrah. Ian has reluctantly gone back to London – the joy of retirement means I can stay a little longer.  Oh that hurrah wasn’t because Ian has gone back. But that we are here again.  He has become the gardeners assistant. 

The Gardeners assistant

The road to Competa gets no less windey each time we visit. Nor less beautiful. The sight of the mountains  as we drive up is truly spectacular. I’d take a picture. But I am driving and as I have started I will finish. But I will take one. Eventually. Ian says look at that.  Look at this. I see nothing but the long and windey road.

The mountains of Andalucia

A week is a long time for a garden. I had worried that the timers wouldn’t have gone off. I knew that the pots had been watered as I was sent a pic of the estate agent and friend at the house. Watering the pots. They were fine. As was the watering system. 

The back planting bed

The garden has been largely planted for drought resistance plants so it doesn’t need much.  I was greeted with one of my favourite plants bursting to flower. The garden has a lot of agapanthus. Some I suspect have seeded but I am not complaining. I love them so I am more than happy that they are here. Next year I will have to smuggle some poo in my bag. 
Agapanthus love

The lavender path is holding up well. I have a tendency to overwater and I know i can’t do that with lavender. Nor should I.. especially as the cost of water here isn’t cheap. 

The lavender path

The jacaranda tree is in full bloom and is best seen  from a distance. Or looking at the floor as it is constantly dropping its flowers. Is it romantic to walk on a flower covered path, swathed in blue flowers. No its bloody well not. It stains the floor and i have been sweeping up on the hour. 

Slight exaggeration there but I don’t need a workout. I’ll get a wash board stomach yet and get rid of the washing machine and tumbler drier one that Ihave now. 

The jacaranda roaring above

I was never a fan of succulents   – ! but having a new Mediterranean garden i am going to have to get to like them. That and Cactus. There are a few prickly pears in the garden ( maybe Ian and I will. Be know as the prickly pair – we are grumpy enough). 

A prickly pear

There are some great big triffids on the bits of a hill that’s ours.  Bit grand really but its across the access road and has a few fig trees on it and is basically scrub. It will stay that way too.

Ian also picked out some plants. I thought they were cactus. But they are euphorbia. Euphorbia candelabrum cactus . to be precise. News to me. I have potted them and they will probably stay at the front.  Another with a poisonous sap. 


 The  garden has a lot of interesting plants and its a huge learning curve. I’d only just got used to my cottage garden planting! I have arranged for someone to come in in Sept to talk plants. Pruning. Some new planting. I have also discussed spring bulbs – there are no flies on me – and my order has to be done before the end of July. They stocked some of my wish list last year and I have requested Brown Sugar to go on the list. Plus alliums. I need to check that they will grow. It’s odd. There are things growing I wouldn’t have thought. There is a great show of hollyhocks on the drive into the town. I have bought two to grow in for next year. Hopefully they will self seed


Twitter is a wonderful thing you know. As well as being pretty rubbish. But that and Instagram when you need a plant identified is awesome. Like the Daucus carrot. Thanks to Phillips Burrough, Sara Venn and Georgie Newberry.  I know know what this plant is growing on the bank at the rear of the house. 

Wild carrot

There are other things I don’t know. Lots of them. But I will before the decade is out. But something else I don’t know What it is. 


Rather stupidly last time I was here i went up onto the bank. In shorts.. never ever again.. My legs were as itchy as hell. Not only the moziies had attacked me but I had a reaction to the grasses that were there.  

Unlike the man who was weeding  the bit of ground outside his house as I drove past yesterday. He was in the shortest shorts that could almost have been budgie smugglers. . No shirt. Flip flops. His skin as red as the shorts he was wearing. Spraying weed killer. In the heat of the day.  Weed killer obviously doesn’t affect beer bellies. It may even enhance them. I’m not about to find out. 

But I had to stop the car as I was laughing so much. I didn’t dare take a snap. But the vision is in my head. Protective clothing. Never,, health and safety. Never.  So I have safely arranged to have our bank strimmed by someone else. The weeds and grass are as dry as. I’m hoping to grow some wild flowers there. It’s not a meadow. It’s a slope. An incline. Dry. Rocky. So maybe poppies. And more cacti.  More succulents. Some more almonds and olives. Sounds grand but there are three almond trees loaded with nuts. . 

Things are dying back. Things are coming to life. I have had a mother moment  and spent most of yesterday dead heading. A snip here. A snip there. Just like she used to do. I’ve said it before. In her own garden. And if she walked up your path she couldn’t resist deadheading a rose or two.  Irritating that. The garden is not  somewhere you can burn the cuttings. It’s too dry. So no bonfire here. 


We collected Ian’s lime tree which is now potted up and ready for the watering to establish it. It will fruit this year but we will take them off and wait until next. Not so the manadarin which is going great guns so far as are the two established orange trees.


.Talking guns. I asked what the black and white sign was outside the gates. Apparently is a no hunting on this land sign. Great I can safely take my shirt off in my own garden without the threat of great white whale hunter appearing as I get in the pool, 

No hunting
Which I have done. As its now warmed up enough for me to get in. I am a bit of a big girls blouse with cold water to be honest. 


I also went on a rescue  mission. I rescued a lemon. Forget driving over lemons. Try crawling on your belly in the border under yuccas to retrieve the one and only lemon that you have in the garden. Which has dropped off the tree when you weren’t looking. But you were determined to retrieve it. 

My one and only

I was determined that it wasn’t going to waste so it will sit in my gin and tonic this evening. Not the whole lemon. I will remember to slice it. Or as I found an electric juicer in the cupboard I could juice it. But really? Gin sounds better. 

We had a business day on Monday. Off to the bank in Nerja as they had cancelled my bank card. Here two weeks and it gets cancelled. Only because I hadn’t signed a form. But I emailed on Monday early and saw my personal account manager at 10am. Excellent service and I signed in about 46 places and got my card reactivated. Then onto the lawyer to sign  the insurance papers. A two hour wait before I had to see the notary meant a little bit of a shopping. So. A bit of pool art in the name of Nemo. Placed at the pool side and looks great. Great colours but be careful. It’s tin and gets hot.  Behind it on the rails is a lovely Jasmine. Jasmine Azoricum. The smell is just gorgeous. 

Finding Nemo

A trip up to Frigiliana to see an artist that we had seen previously and two pictures later we were on our way to the notary, who this time hadn’t disappeared to Rome. A swift flick of a pen and my will was signed. 

So surprise surprise I have been busy snapping away in the garden. Partly because I can but also so I have a record of what’s what. I am not here for a month and the garden changes so quickly. 




I’m pretty miffed that I will miss some of the agapanthus at their best as well. 

But the main thing is the stephanotis that is just about to burst next to the front door. I swear they weren’t there a week ago. I’m sure the smell will be fab and there are loads of separate buds. Ah well you can’t win them all. 


 I have deadheaded   some little blue maugerite type plants which I think flower continuously so hopefully they woill be awash with colour when I am next here. I have admired the black or blue bird of paradise yet again. It’s a real bee magnet. 


So I am in the square again. It’s Thursday and there will be no horsemen riding by. That’s a Sunday. Ive decided to have breakfast on the square. watching. Observing. Practicing my Spanish. Ian’s worried that I will repeat the phrase that came out wrong when I was doing my homework last week. Speaking into the iPhone app in my best accent it was translated back into English  as  long penis.  Quite what I was asking for I don’t know as i collapsed into a quivering heap of laughter.   So Far the only potential issue could have been when I was looking for Salvias and asked if they had hot lips.  I kept a straight ( yea I can do it) face and carried on..  they didn’t by the way. so i bought two others. And yes they have been planted.

So. Off i go to the hardware place that is always full of builders and workmen. I must try not to embarrass myself as I’m  only getting keys cut. Maybe. 

Two More days and then back to my window boxes and tree ferns. Retirement is hard. 

Happy Anniversary to me 

So this time last year I was preparing for my last working day. My office had been cleared of 28 years of stuff. Precisely that – stuff. Clients had been told. Lunches had been had. Today was to be the day I retired. Not  Monday the last day of the month when it was expected.   Today. I would go to work as normal and at lunchtime I would depart quietly. A few goodbyes. But with no fuss. No ceromonial handshakes and the usual bollocks. An email set to go out after I had left the building. Thanking those I had respected. Valued. Loved. Saying goodbye would be bitter sweet.

I can’t believe I’m a year older. A year of retirement. Me. Retired. How did that happen. 52 weeks of not having that Monday morning feeling. 


I saw friends last week who I hadn’t seen in a while. Go on they said   – admit it – your bored. You must be  bored by now. 

My response – a huge belly laugh. Bored. Bored. You must be ‘aving  a laff. What have you been doing then they asked. 

Let me see. I posted A blog  a few months ago on my first 6 months. That was a period of adjustment I said – but think ducks and water. Fat ducks. Lots of water. 

I had lunch yesterday with an ex colleague who I hadn’t seen since Jan. You look really well she said – a comment that has been said so much this year. What have you been up to. I keep getting asked the same question and my reply is I’m busy all the time – this and that. Actually I don’t know what I’m doing. It just happens. Either that it’s on the list. Ian’s list. Of jobs. 

I have had a great summer in Somerset. Gardening. Growing fruit and veg. Actually picking it and using it too. Picking tomatoes. Cucumbers. Apples pears. Grapes. Runner beans. My dad would be proud. Except I didn’t dig a trench. That’s a big black mark from him. 


I picked dahlias. Constantly. Along with a whole load of other stuff from the cutting garden. Grand. What I mean is that the whole gardens for cutting! 



Socialising. Spending time with my godchildren. Continuing the  School runs. Being a manny for a day here and there whilst their mother worked. Think Mary Poppins but heavier and a better beard growth. Me not her. Although I’m sure hers wasn’t ginger and grey. Oh. And I can’t sing. Well I think I can I’m Welsh after all. I did annoy the  kids singing raindrops on roses whiskers on kittens. And changing the words just like my mother used to. 

The London boys reminded me when I picked them up from school  that I used to sing with them in the car. They asked me to put that song on again – oh dear. smarty pants by First Choice. They are now 10 and 13. They remind me that i changed the title. So I did again. 

Ian’s birthday
We used to sing it when they were 3. It also reminded me that We had a horror with one of them. We had taken Kai to the zoo. He must have been 2 or 3. On the way home we stopped to get cakes. Me in the car. Kai in the back. Ian got in and asked what was the matter. I said listen to Kai. Closely. We are gonna be in trouble. He listened. And was horrified. He looked at me and said. That’s probably my fault. We thought he was saying F off.  I turned to say no. Then burst out laughing. He actually was saying fork off. He had broken the little fork lift truck car his grandad had given him.  Phew. I digress. 


Having time to have days  out with the children.  Taking my god daughter for a ride on a steam train on a day I was looking after her. –  was that for her or me?  We went despite  an earlier tantrum on the doorstep where I nearly said thanks but no thanks to her mother. Take her away. 

Cooking with her brother  – a 13 yr old 6ft rugby playing young farmer who over the summer has grown from a mono syllabic teenager into an interesting young man who can bake and talk sheep.

I’ll lead you’ll follow. Young shepherd.
And at a cost of a new pair of rugby boots and trainers he looked after my greenhouse whilst I was away. Taking a 13 year old to buy clothes was an experience  in itself. He had a very definite opinion on what he wanted. 

Junior bake off. Making Bara Brith

I have attended talks at the  Wells festival of Literature  – Vince Cable. Rev Richard Coles. Mathew Parris. Intersting. Funny. Being taken to afternoon tea by my friend Helen with whom i had days out to Bradford on Avon. 

Afternoon tea at the Crown Wells
Attended courses at Common Farm Flowers   Been a Saturday boy there. ( well Friday’s really) when they have had a big wedding on. With my friend Lorraine – queen of the jam jar posies Helping out. 

Lorraine Queen of the jam jar posies. Bloody lovely she is too.
Me Queen of everything obviously – but on food and beverages and large arrangements. Being allowed to assist the head honcho.  Not making a complete Dick of myself. 

To me the highlight of my summer if I am honest. Spending  2 working days at Common Farm Flowers with Georgie Sharon and Lorraine was such fun. I’m hoping to be invited back for more in 2017!   Please….

Me with the inspirational Sara Venn

To breakfasts at   Hive Beach cafe with Ian on a Monday morning in October watching the sea from the cafe.

Hive Beach Cafe

Continuing visits to National trust properties on our days off.  A bit of travel here and there. A bit like taking a gap year except more sedate and a little more luxury. I’ve seen the Alhambra. The museums of Amsterdam. The east coast of Portugal. The wonders of Vienna. The delights of Madrid. Sat up most of the night in Italy listening to the referendum vote. And going to bed at 5am and saying to Ian. We are doomed. 

Short  European breaks going through the EU passport gates thinking it may be the last time. Who knows even now.

 A big trip to Canada – a trip of a lifetime. Bears and whales & Vancouver. A sea plane. Long car drives. Bears. Lots of them. So close  you could smell their breath. Making new friends. People. Not bears. 

Hello. It’s me

Cooking. Baking. More cooking. Making cordials lots of them. Jellies. Cakes. Standing in the tractor bucket 20ft in the air picking   bullace and making a version of sloe gin. Not whilst in the bucket but at home later! Planning for an extension that has flexible timescales. Very flexible. More flexible than me.  Now maybe into 2017. 

All things my time in retirement has allowed me to do. 

You’ve got to love a Welsh cake

Throw in the annual river clearance where I get to wear rubber. Waders. coffees with friends and Neighbours who are also friends – chatting with the coffee roasters at Bean Shot whilst purchasing beans and ground coffee. Or lunching at Cole Manor Tea Rooms 

Annual river clearance River Pitt

So that’s what I have been doing. Looking back I’ve done a lot. Throw in my endless trips for dental treatment over the summer where I travelled intercity like the men due ( anyone remember that ad) on my cheap day returns ( always an excuse to go into Selfridges) – my trips to the theatre. Continuing trips to exhibitions – Oh. And I stayed in a premier Inn. Shopped  in Lidl. Pounsaver. Aldi. Eaten a ton of Lidl stollen bites set aside for Xmas. 

So. I enter year 2 and whatever that brings.some things I know already.  I have my annual trip to Italy booked. My trip to Chelsea flower show. The new show at Chatsworth.  I have theatre booked. Hamlet.  Roaencrantz and guildenstein. Mary Stuart. All booked in already. 

No doubt there will be more child minding duties both in London and Somerset. More common Farm Flowers. More courses. ( billingsgate. And a  Bread one are on the list) – garden planning. Meetings within the architect. Maybe an extension. More short breaks.

But  whatever the next year throws at me I won’t ever have that Monday morning feeling again. 

Oh. I’ve also bought myself s new camera. You may have gathered. I’ve been snapping away like my life depended on it. Ian won’t stand still. He hates his photo being taken. I’m Still rubbish at selfies. 

So. Have I had a good year. Do bears  ….. in the woods? They do. And in the rivers. I can vouch for that!  So the answer. . YES. 

Ps. If your wondering. Yes. I still have the list from  Ian – the attic and cellar are still outstanding. But  You’ll be glad to know the septic  tanks been done.  Thereby hangs another story.