More garden adventuresĀ 

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 meĀ 

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.