Short blog this week. One because I really don’t have very much to tell you, and two because I’m not feeling very well. And no, before you ask, it’s not Corona. I’ve managed to pick up a head cold from somewhere so have a raging sore throat, and a snotty grotty nose. Isn’t it ironic – wearing facemasks, staying indoors, avoiding contact with people, and constantly sanitising my hands is apparently enough to protect me from a virulent global pandemic – but it couldn’t stop the common cold!
So, I’m sniffy and drippy and feeling a bit sorry for myself. It’s affecting my sleep as well, because every time I lay down it seems to make my sinuses swell even more to the point of being unable to breathe. I’ve also been having dreams, well, more nightmares really. Normally, I don’t dream at all, or if I do, I don’t remember them. But the last few nights I have been plagued with very unsettling dreams of death and disaster, and deadly situations and danger that have me jerking awake, drenched in sweat, and reluctant to go back to sleep again.
I’m hoping it’s all connected to the cold and the general swollen state of my nose – perhaps not being able to breath properly is alarming my subconscious to the state of inducing these “life in danger” dreams and making me constantly wake up to change position in an attempt to breathe.
It’s been a busy week despite not feeling so good. Monday morning, I made the decision to start writing book twelve. After all, the government have announced that all non-essential shops will re-open by mid-April, so that means I have six more weeks at home before plunging back into the rat race of trying to juggle my work, home, and writing lives, so I figured I had better try and get as many words down as possible over the next six weeks.
I’ve made a good start. I’m writing book four of the Blackwood Family Saga, my short and pacey romantic suspense series. I am aiming to write a minimum of 3000 words a day and so far, have managed 13,000. Given that the books are generally around 52,000 words long that means I’ve written a quarter of the book. If I stay on track, I should finish the book in two weeks’ time. I then intend to plunge straight into writing the final book of the Perennials Trilogy. Now, this will be a lot longer book and will probably average out at about 160,000. I know there isn’t much chance of me writing the whole book in four weeks, but if I get a goodly portion of it down then the impetus will be there to carry on once I’m back at work.
The news about my car is all good. The underwriters have agreed the costs of repairing the car and have already placed the money into my account. The new wing is with my mechanic, so they are working on the car even as we speak. Probably over the next couple of weeks I will have my car back – certainly before I need to collect another big shop, and certainly long before lockdown ends, and I need it for work.
Miss F has received a text from the restaurant where she works part-time advising her to be on standby to potentially return to work mid-April as well. Restaurants are opening offering outdoor table service only, so I guess this re-opening will be very much good weather related. No point opening if it’s miserable weather and all you can offer your customers is a soggy table in a wet and slippery underfoot garden.
College wise, she has been told that she will probably be returning on the 8th of March, but there seems a great deal of confusion about it all. At first, the college announced that masks would be mandatory in the whole college – about blinking time – but now they are saying that they won’t be, so I guess that will be the virus being spread about again. Yes, children don’t tend to catch the virus and, if they do, they don’t suffer from it the way most adults do. But they can carry it home to their family who will mostly still be in lockdown. Children in households with severely compromised family members who are sheltering and vulnerable have been told they will not be exempt. They MUST come to school/college or their parents risk fines or even prison sentences.
It’s a tough decision. Definite fine or possible death from a nasty contagious virus. Which one would you choose?
The news about her exams is even more confusing. They have finally been told that the written portion of their exams have been cancelled, and that teachers will be grading them based on coursework, assignments, and mock exam results – so as a straight distinction student, Miss F doesn’t have any worries there. But these written exams only constitute 40% of her grade, and they still haven’t informed students how they are supposed to take their practical synoptics that make up 60% of the total grade. Time is ticking by – students return to college in two weeks’ time and many have no idea if they are taking exams or not, and what sort of preparation there are supposed to be making.
It is a very confusing, stressful, and worrying time for many young people. I only wish the governing bodies could understand this and announce clearly defined and fair solutions to help ease their minds and reduce the pressure a little bit.
I am concerned about the fact that when lockdown ends for most of us in mid-April and we are all forced back into our shops, offices, and factories, that most of the work force will not have been vaccinated yet. With at least three new, even more contagious strains of the virus now in the UK, it is worrying that so many of us will be back out there, unprotected, and extremely vulnerable to these new strains. Despite all that has happened over the past year, there are still so many who flout the rules, who don’t wear masks, who don’t follow basic guidelines, and who appear blissfully ignorant of how far apart 2m actually means. With the highest death rate per capita in the world, the UK needs to start learning a few lessons here, or I can see the whole thing kicking off again.
But anyway, all I can do is obey the rules, stay home, and try to keep myself and other people as safe as possible. The weather seems to have taken a turn for the better, which is nice, and I have been making a real effort to spend some time each day in my garden. Whilst I am very happy with the hard landscaping, I don’t feel I’ve yet got the planting right. It is tricky, in a very small garden, to hit that right balance of there being enough plants to make it feel alive, and having plants take over and completely overwhelm the space.
I pulled down an old tree on Tuesday, and before you ask if I’ve started a new career as a lumberjack, it was only an old and very dead olive tree. A few good yanks and the whole thing came down. Riddled with woodworm and bone dry, it was only fit for sawing up and burning on my fire. It’s a job I’ve been meaning to do for years but never had the time, so it’s one more item ticked off my to-do list. I also pulled out some rather rampant lavender which had thuggishly invaded the whole of one bed and established dominance over everything else in it. Taller than me, although lovely in the summer it was simply too much, so out it came. I will buy some dwarf lavender and have it in a pot, so it is confined and controllable.
Someone bought Miss F a rose for her christening. Bit of a strange present, I thought at the time, given that it had wicked long thorns all over it, and I have never found the right spot in the garden for it. Over the past seventeen years it has been tried in no less than four places, but each time ran wild and choked anything that got in its way. Defying all attempts to prune it or keep it in check, I have lost count of the number of times I have cleaned the deep scratches gouged from my arms by the vicious thing. If it produced beautiful and sweet-smelling blooms, I might have forgiven it and put up with its cantankerous ways, but the lacklustre and rather pitiful yellow flowers it puts out are so not worth the pain, and I have secretly planned its demise. However, it was technically Miss F’s rose and as such, I was unable to murder it.
However, a compromise has finally been reached. The damn thing is going, and in return she is going to pick the rambling rose of her choice – preferably one with pretty, scented blooms – and it will be planted to climb up the pergola and over the bathroom roof so she can see, and maybe smell it, from her office window.
So now the rose is on death row, I have hacked it down to the ground and when I’m next in the garden will attempt to pull it up completely. This will leave the whole large bottom bed completely empty and ready for new plants. First to go in will be my wisteria. I’ve always wanted one, but never really had anywhere to put it, but bought one anyway and stuck it in my woodland raised bed in the hopes that it would manage to scramble its way up out of the gloom to the sunshine on top of the pergola where it could ramble and bloom to its heart’s content. But it never did. It put out a few sickly, straggly runners that clung for dear life to the trellis but never progressed any further and certainly never produced any of those iconic purple drooping flowers. Wisteria likes a lot of sunshine and needs unlimited space to climb. Now that the old olive tree is gone and the rose’s days are numbered, I have the perfect sunny spot available to move the wisteria to. It’s right at the bottom of the garden which does get quite a lot of sunshine. There is a trellis for it to scramble up, and then bow shaped trellis toppers on the fence that runs the whole length of the garden for me to train it to scramble along – if it is so inclined.
I’m also pulling down all the honeysuckle. It was a nice idea, but I think it is too thirsty a plant for my garden and again was in the wrong place. It never looked very attractive – all that brown crunchy foliage just made it look dead, it never produced any flowers, and all it does is rain dead leaves down onto the table and chairs under the pergola which I am constantly having to clean up or they rot and go mulchy underfoot.
The only plant I have ever managed to grow successfully over my pergola was a passionflower. It was a pity purchase years ago from a local garden centre. Tiny, battered, and looking distinctly dead in a cracked plastic pot, it had been reduced to £1.50 and Miss F’s soft heart was touched by its plight. Begging me to buy it, she wasn’t even put off when I told her we were probably just giving it a nice place to die, so we brought it home and planted it in the woodland bed where it could scramble up the trellis and onto the pergola.
Personally, I thought its scrambling days were well and truly over, but boy was I proved wrong. This thing thrived, and I mean thrived! By the end of the summer, it had reached the top of the pergola and was busy exploring its new world. But the following spring it was halfway across, and by the following year it had achieved almost total domination of the whole of the pergola. It bloomed profusely – gorgeous big cream and purply blue flowers that looked almost alien in their weirdness – and even the odd fruit. Much to Miss F’s disappointment these weren’t edible but still, they were fun to look at.
I would give it a bit of a prune every now and then, and it would grow back more vigorously than ever. Nothing seemed to phase it – no matter what the weather was, it kept on growing – and I began to believe it was indestructible, but I was to be proved wrong.
The pergola needed repainting. A difficult enough job it was made almost impossible by the passionflower being all over it. Carefully, I pruned back enough so that I could get to the wooden uprights and crossbeams and start painting. One day, I happened to mention to our then lodger that I was going to prune the passionflower back a bit more so I could get to the trellis it was entwined about and repaint it.
When I returned from work that day, it was to find a sweaty lodger who proudly informed me that he had pruned the passionflower for me so I could get straight on with painting that evening. Heart sinking, I followed him out into the garden to find that he had hacked it almost down to the ground. He had cut deeply into the old wood leaving just a stump and I knew he had killed it. That no matter how robust the plant was, there was no coming back from this. Sadly, I was proved right. I left the corpse in the ground hoping it would recover, but for five years it has sat there doing nothing.
Yesterday, I gave a gentle pull on the stump and the whole thing disintegrated in my hands. Pulling it from the ground I discovered no root system left at all on it, so I sawed the trunk up into small logs and tossed them into the wood box.
But life is all about coincidences. I had to go to our local general shop at the bottom of our road for some essential cleaning products and a month’s worth of greetings cards, and on my way back out of the shop I stopped to look on the rack of garden plants they had for sale. To my surprise there was a passionflower there, but not the normal blue one, this one was a gorgeous deep pink. I think I will go back today and buy one. The last passionflower did so well I am hopeful this new one will prove as successful – and you can rest assured I will keep any future lodgers away from it.
Today we have a virtual “Meet the Tutor” thing with Miss F’s university, so I need to close here and wake her up as it’s happening in less than an hour and she’s still asleep – I envy her ability to be able to sleep till noon. I used to be able to, but now a combination of too many things to do dragging me out of bed, and a less accommodating bladder – my sleeping in days are a thing of the past.
Looking at the word count, this blog turned out longer than I thought it would, and I’m sorry for boring you all with my ramble about my plans for the garden.
Hope you are all well, and wherever you are, please stay safe and stay happy.