Life can be so hard!

It has been a week of two halves, weather-wise. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were beautiful. Gorgeous, hot, sunny days which I spent outdoors in the garden with a paintbrush in hand – wondering how much lighter my hair could possibly be bleached and happy that the grey was blending in. I know I was going to take you on a tour of my garden this week and show you what it looks like now, but by Wednesday evening the dark clouds were rolling in, the wind was getting up and the temperature was dropping, so I haven’t been able to take some decent pictures. The weather should improve next week, so I will have some ready for next Sunday, I promise.

Here in the UK we are now allowed to have friends and family come to our garden, so long as social distancing is observed, and I’d arranged for an old friend to come around after lunch on the Thursday for a bottle (or two) of something sparkly in the garden. The weather forecast was doubtful, and when I got up Thursday morning it was a good ten degrees colder than the day before, a chill wind was gusting, and there was a hint of rain.

Garden centres have also all recently re-opened, so I decided to take the car to my nearest B&Q which is only five minutes up the road, to buy a nice assortment of plants to go in my pots and hanging basket, plus some herbs. My friend wouldn’t arrive until 1:30pm so I had plenty of time to buy them and maybe even get them potted up.

The carpark of the garden centre was reasonably empty, and after going through the whole complicated procedure of which door did I go in, and sanitising my trolley handle at the cleaning station set up just inside the shop, I hurried right through to the garden centre bit outside the back of the shop. I grabbed a bottle of super-strength paint remover from a shelf as I passed, because although I tried to be careful when I was painting the fences, I splodged paint on the slate tiles and haven’t been able to get it off. I did try with “Patio Magic” but as far as I can see, the only magic involved with that seems to be how much they can charge for a bottle of something that does absolutely diddly squat to your patio, let alone clean it.

Anyway, I quickly went through the shop and out the back into the outdoor plant area and to say I was a bit disappointed is putting it mildly. Normally, this area is bursting with a colourful array of bedding and perennial plants, shrubs, and climbers. This time it was practically bare. Literally. Row upon row of empty shelves greeted me and I wondered if anything had been left for me to buy.

I pushed my trolley – which had a squeaky wheel – slowly down the rows looking for plants – any plants – to buy. I found a couple of trailing white geraniums. I like geraniums, so that was fine. There were some begonias – again in white, then I found some white petunias – hmm, at this rate my garden was going to look like a knock-off of the white garden at Sissinghurst. Then I found some purple petunias, something called Nemestia – which seemed to have small white flowers, then a whole tray of purple and white striped trailing something or other! There was one tray of lobelia left in the colours of, you’ve guessed it, purple and white. Looks like my garden has a colour theme this year of purple and white!

Not a big assortment

Hanging on a rack nearby were a few ready-made hanging baskets. Again, these had been picked over, but I did find one quite nice one for £10 so into the trolley that went. And that was literally all the plants they had. Figuring I had enough, and if I didn’t, that was tough, I went back through the shop. On the way, I managed to get myself a new laundry basket as I’d broken mine. I reached the check-out. There was no one else in the queue and the usual barricade of plastic around the assistant greeted me, as well as the cheery smile of the young guy behind it.

I was asked to push my trolley to the end, then step well away so he could scan everything into the till. We exchanged pleasantries as he did so, and I commented how sparse their plant stocks were. He rolled his eyes. They’d only re-opened on the 1st of June and the hordes had descended on them like a plague of locusts, stripping the shelves of almost everything they had in stock. Their deliveries simply weren’t coming in fast enough to renew stocks and I’d been lucky to find what I had. He looked a bit worried at this point. Had I been wanting compost for this lot, he asked, only there wasn’t any of that to be had, not for love nor money. Luckily, I’d bought a large bag just before lockdown, so I was good.

It came to £68 so I put my card into the machine and put in my PIN. Card Declined. What? Try again, he said, they’d been having issues with the card machines all week. I tried again. Card Declined. Has this ever happened to you? It is one of the worst feelings in the world. I stood there, feeling myself go brick red, desperately trying to think what state my bank account was in. Reassuring myself that I was absolutely fine. I’d only just been paid, and anyway, I’d been spending so little the last few months I was better off than normal.

I didn’t know what to do. It was the only way to pay that I had on me. The young man was very sympathetic and helpful. Don’t worry, he reassured me, he’d transfer it to another till and try and take the payment there. He did that, and this time the payment went through first time – much to my relief – and I was able to load my plants into the car and go home.

My phone pinged as I was carrying the plants through to the garden. It was a text from my bank. Someone had maybe fraudulently used my card and please could I call them. I called them. Spent five minutes going through layers of security to reach a human being, assured them it had been me, and asked why my card had been declined?

Bank: Well, it was an unusual transaction.

Me: Why? It’s my local garden centre and it was only £60 pounds. What’s so unusual about that?

Bank: It was an instore purchase and not online.

Me: But I’ve been using my card instore at least once a week for the past two months.

Bank: Yes, but not in B&Q. Is there a reason why you haven’t been using it in there?

Me: Are you kidding?

Bank: …….

Me: Do you hear what you’ve just said?

Bank: …….

Me: ……….

Bank: Oh….

Me: Yes?

Bank: Ok, sorry, our bad.

By the time I’d gone through this rigmarole and had lunch, it was time for my friend to arrive and the weather had got worse. There is a back entrance to my garden, so she came that way and it was lovely to see her again and chat, but my word, it was cold out there. We were both layered up, but still we got colder and colder as the afternoon progressed.

It’s so unfair. For weeks now we’ve had amazing weather. Day after day, week after week, of scorching hot sun, blue skies, and not a drop of rain in sight. The second we’re allowed to have a visitor in our gardens, bam, the temperature drops a good ten to fifteen degrees, the wind picks up, and it starts to rain.

Gamely, we stuck it out. We are British after all, so clutched our glasses of Prosecco tighter and huddled further into our layers as a brief rain shower drenched us, then the wind blew us dry. By the time she left at 5ish, I was cold to my core. Even after having a hot meal and being indoors, I still couldn’t get warm.

Friday, it rained all day and the wind blew a gale. It was too cold and wet to work in the garden, so I mooched about the house doing small chores. And now here we are at Saturday afternoon. It’s been raining heavily all day. It’s so cold I have laid a fire for this evening, and this is why us Brits talk about the weather all the time. If we had the kind that was pretty much always the same, day in, day out, then we’d probably not mention it at all, but the fact that we can be sweating up a storm with doors and windows open until midnight because it’s so hot at the beginning of the week, then be lighting a fire because it’s so blessed cold by the end of the week, that there is proper weather and is worth commenting on and moaning about.

In other news, do you remember me telling you that my cat has a wound on her back she won’t leave alone so it’s not healing? Well, the stuff from the vets had proved very ineffective and hasn’t stopped her licking it at all. Finally, in desperation, we bought her what is referred to as a medi-vest but is really a sleeveless onesie for cats. The idea is she wears it and it will stop her licking the wound and will give it time to heal.

We bought one online, they came in a variety of colours including hot pink, cupcake blue and chick yellow, but we were kind to her and bought her the cool army camo one – well, we didn’t want the other cats to laugh at her – and when it was delivered, we tried it on her.


Now, I was expecting her to make a bit of a fuss. After all, cats don’t like being dressed up, so we were prepared for some sulks and resentful looks, but oh my word! Talk about a diva. We put it on her. She immediately pretended that her whole centre of gravity had been misaligned and collapsed onto her side with her legs straight out. We picked her back up. She fell over again. We picked her up. She tottered backwards as if her legs no longer worked properly, then fell over her own tail and lay on her side, mewling pathetically.

We hardened our hearts. This was for her own good. She scrabbled about, looking all small and helpless and I must admit, it did upset me a bit. I hate seeing animals distressed and she was really stressing over the whole affair. Obviously, we couldn’t let her out in the vest as it would not only get dirty, but also might get caught on something. So, the cat flap was locked, and I bought in her old litter tray and some litter left over from when we first had her as a kitten. She looked at the tray in disgust, scooped out some litter and threw it all over the kitchen floor, then tottered off into the lounge.

For the rest of the day she was clingy and needy, reverting to mopey toddler mode, demanding non-stop attention and hugs. She didn’t show any signs of learning to love her onesie, but she did settle down a bit with it, and didn’t fall over anytime she stood up. Then it got late, and it was time to go to bed. Normally, that’s when she pops out through the catflap for her evening ablutions, but of course, this evening it was locked.

She bashed at it with her paw, she bashed at it a bit more. Then she charged at it head-on and somehow managed to pop the lock and she was out. I’d just been going upstairs to bed when I heard all the commotion and came running back down to find the catflap ajar and no cat. She had to be found, so we were out in the pitch-black garden stumbling around, shaking the treats bag, and loudly whispering her name.

Luckily, she hadn’t gone far – I think she fell over in the onesie – so I was able to scoop her up and bring her back in. We examined the catflap. Miss F had been the one to lock it and she hadn’t quite clicked the catch into place so a really determined onslaught by the cat had been enough to force it open. We re-locked it again, making sure it was secure this time, and went to bed.

Within minutes we were back down again. The frenzied bashing on the catflap could be heard all over the house, as could the pitiful screaming and yowling. It was no good. We had to admit defeat and take the onesie off, put her collar back on, and unlock the catflap.

A compromise has been reached. She is indoors and in the onesie from the moment I get up in the morning, to the moment I go to bed in the evening, and I just have to hope that will give the wound a chance to heal. If not, it may have to be the cone of shame – and she really won’t like that!

Shorter blog this week, but I promise I will dodge the raindrops during the next few days and take lots of pictures of my garden ready to post next week. Have a great Sunday, whatever you’re doing, and I hope wherever you are that you’re staying safe and staying healthy.

All the best

Julia Blake

2 thoughts on “Life can be so hard!

  1. Enjoyable read with a lot of relatable things. My heart went out to the friend popping round. It should have been lovely, and what we’ve been craving for so long. We certainly miss our friends, we just miss company full stop!

    Liked by 1 person

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