back at the plot

beaSeptember is always a busy month. This year it seemed crazier than ever: Bea started at secondary school and two weeks later we celebrated her twelfth birthday; the roof was fixed and in the process scaffolders failed to arrive several times (what is it with scaffolders?); a stray cat wandered into our lives for a few days, filled the house with fleas and helped herself to Bea’s birthday cake — if you look closely at the photo above you can see the slightly ‘bald’ patch where she licked the icing away; Martha went off to school camp and returned with her head full of nits, a suitcase filled with stinky clothes and her body covered with bites: it was “the best camp ever!”

And last, but by no means least, Matilda’s lovely German exchange partner, Lisa, arrived. We’ve had fun introducing Lisa to English treats such as marmite (she’s not a fan), scones and clotted cream (big thumbs up), and this Friday she’ll get to try fish and chips (I hope it lives up to her expectations).

P1230018Beyond the chaos on the domestic front, the garden has been quietly doing its thing, and now that October has arrived, the mood is distinctly autumnal. I feel the garden peaked in early July and looked pretty, though increasingly frazzled, until the end of August. But some pruning, cutting back and general poking around on my part pulled it all back into focus. I need to think about how I can extend next year’s show.

IMG_0879P1240975 P1240974 P1240962I’m planning to sift through all my garden photographs so that I can write a proper round-up of what worked and what didn’t. Until then, I’ll leave you with Sybil, my ever-present, ever/over-eager and often quite annoying gardening assistant…

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swinging in the rain

This weekend’s incredibly muddy walk: Abbot’s Pool, just along from Leigh Woods.

There is a large lake, a smaller pool and several little water falls, but best of all a very high tyre swing. This is the one walk the girls are always up for, come rain or shine.


Whilst photographing Mary’s lovely felt decorations I spotted a couple of lame horses amongst the biscuits on the tree – a hoof missing here, a leg there. It was bound to happen to one or two of them I reasoned, but then, as I looked closer, I saw that almost all the biscuits had been picked at – all stars were at least one point short. Grrr.

Of course the girls tried to blame Sybil. It was the dog, they chorused, faces solemn. But I’m not that stupid. And anyway, Sybil has been banned from the sitting room since the biscuits appeared on the tree – one whiff of them sent her trotting around the room like a demented show dog, nose in the air as if held up by an invisible thread, hungrily drinking in their scent. I knew the biscuits wouldn’t last long, and they are meant to be eaten, but I had hoped the girls might share them with their cousins on Boxing day. Fat chance.


School is over for this year. And what a relief it is to have a six week break from my life as a human sheep dog: herding reluctant children up the hill to school each morning, and herding grumpy ones back down again at the end of the day.

Today, the first day of the holidays, still involved herding children though, but this time two dogs were doing all the leg work. My friend Nicky and I took our children and dogs geocaching. We ambled along at a leisurely pace in the light drizzle that characterises the British summer, whilst the children walked twice the distance, skittering back and forth between us and the dogs. Armed with an iPhone and accompanied by our team of enthusiastic helpers we began to feel the first stirrings of happy nerdiness. We felt that the purchase of many-pocketed anoraks might only be days away – ones with special places for keeping maps visible but dry.

By following various clues and coordinates we found a mosaic –

and a pet cemetery –

But no “camouflaged box the size of three 35mm film cases.” Three hours later the helpers started to mutiny. Cries of “mum this is getting quite boring now”, and “are we ever going home?” rang through the air. All thoughts of Gortex anoraks were quickly forgotten and our quest abandoned in favour of digging up treasure of another sort down at the allotment.

The joy of turning over a clod of earth to reveal a pale gold potato never diminishes; today it was enhanced by our earlier failure. The potato bed is empty now, though there are no doubt a few spuds lodging there still – the children may be energetic potato diggers, but they are not very systematic.

So school is finished, the potato bed is finished, and last night two nice knitting projects were finished as well, though both still need a little finishing, which is what I’ll do now.

Both hat and spotty bag are from Jane Brocket’s book The Gentle Art of Knitting, which has kept me happily occupied during recent revision avoidance, passport office loitering and other moments when the merry-go-round that is the end of term has slowed for a moment or two.

And just a final thought on geocaching: though our first geocache was an abject failure, it was good fun, totally free and kept everyone entertained for several hours. Nicky and I have vowed to do it again, but with a compass and a slightly better understanding of what the various bits of orienteering lingo actually mean.


These are today’s casualties. I found them languishing in their beds, victims of Sybil’s snuffling attentions. She has also discovered the joy of burying bones – I thought that was just a lazy cliche, but no, dogs really do bury bones.

On the bright side, I have to hand it to her, she made a great choice and clearly has an ‘eye’ when it comes to selecting flowers for the house.

Today I skip back to the Botanic Gardens for the rest of my course and once the dust has settled both literally and figuratively, I will post photographs of last week’s terracing operation.