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Sunday, 28 April 2013

cat burglar

ahem ..... seem to have replaced talking about the weather with talking about cats. A temporary state of affairs I hope because soon there'll be lots of things happening in the garden I can write about. 

Instead of bringing in the usual carnage of very small mice, moles, birds, bunnies etc. Pocket (quarter Bengal) brought home a pound of sausages.(uncooked) Heaven knows where he stole them from - we are ten miles from a butchers - I can only imagine they came from someone's kitchen. Either that or they've started production in the shed where the pigs are kept just a few yards from our house. He obviously knew he had done wrong and furtively dropped them on the lawn when he saw me. But his greed over took him and picking them up again started to run off towards the bushes where he could eat them undisturbed. However he picked up the end of the washing line (which had fallen on the ground)in his mouth,with the sausages and when he'd run the length of the line -  was brought up sharp! You could see his mind working out whether to keep trying to run or put the sausage down. I wonder if it's the Bengal in him - imagine what he'd bring home if he were half or even full Bengal. I guess he'd be hauling home wildebeest. 
 Anyway he pretty much rules the roost up here - Nancy the black cat keeps clear of him when they're not rolling around the floor locked in some spitting, turbo charged bundle of fur. When I lived in London and had another cat, all the cats in the the neighboured would come into the house through the cat flap. I think he held cat parties when I was out. I had to invest in a magnetic cat flap which means your cat wears a magnetic key on its collar and the flap only opens for the cat with the key. I had images of a lot of cat collar swapping going on in the community. The downside of this was that his magnet would get stuck to anything metal. I found him attached to the fridge once and another time he went trotting past me with a lot of dress making pins stuck to his collar. 

It inspired me to write this poem.

What me?

Harry enjoying the joke about the sausages

Animal Magnetism.

You seem to have a fatal, metal attraction
drawn inextricably  to any iron contraption
an ally of alloy.
Now with your magnetic key
dancing from your collar
you are no longer
the cat who goes forth alone.
I see you clinging like a shadow
to the bucket in the garden
or making overtures to the mower
as you plot a course North.

Not a cat to grace a lap
I saw you in hot pursuit of a toe cap
on a pair of Doc Martens.
I might have found you, your head clamped
to the Art Deco lamp in the hall
or in a clinch
with a crampon in the shed
until recently when you formed an embracement
with Mrs Lacy's hip replacement
and bonded with the handcuffs
you found under her bed.

The two shocking images I've come away with from this week's news is that of clever, beautiful, intelligent dolphins being trained to remove the underwear from a Paul Raymond's showgirl and kids in America wearing bulletproof rucksacks to school.

Below is a less shocking image.

tulip purissima

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

cat empire

Pocket the cat (quarter Bengal) sounds as if a long time ago he swallowed a songbird which got stuck in his throat, because he always announces his arrival with a little chirrup!chirrup! Because of this I know he was the culprit this morning as his little greeting was heard downstairs shortly before the sound of smashing glass and mayhem from the shower room.  It transpired somebody had knocked over the glass lantern and one of Jane Hurst's elegant cream bowls which all shattered into a million little pieces. When I dragged myself out of bed he was sitting on the stairs with a look of "Well I wonder who did that." 

This was swiftly followed by the other cat - Nancy - (absolutely no Bengal in her at all) running upstairs with a baby rabbit in her mouth and going into the bedroom with it. This meant I had to chase a hopping bunny round the room, whilst fending off the aforementioned Nancy, and let it loose in the garden. And all this before the cock crowed. I blame the parents. 

I blame the parents

 I've put this picture here of a double white clematis which grows up the railings because it's nicer to look at than listening to the poor sheep in the fields behind us. They've taken their lambs away and their cry is heartbreaking. It must be a similar cry to all those parents who have to leave their poor children at boardings schools and cling to the bars of the gates as their lambs are whisked away into the belly of academia.

 Couldn't resist this picture of Harry snatching a quick forty winks whilst I'm outside with the power hose jetting down the yard. I can't tell you how pleasing it is to pull the trigger on those high powered cleaners, writing messages in the green algae that congregates on the concrete and blasting away all that grime. It's surprisingly good for the soul. It's like pulling the trigger on a Magnum 45. "Make my Day." Not so dirty Harry. And funnily enough I have pulled the trigger on a Magnum 45 -  years ago with my then brother in law in California who was a Vietnam war vet and took me to a shooting range in the desert where they shot at targets of cardboard people. I had to stick a couple of bullets in my ears the noise was so loud and the kickback practically knocked me over. I was young and impressionable then because I'd be out their lobbying now - "Ban Guns!"

A Few Words on The soul by Wislawa Szymborska

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop.
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks.
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off duty.

It’s picky;
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations makes it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
Though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


There's been much action since the sun came out over the weekend, including grass mowing and the arrival of the tulips which look as if they're going to open any day soon. Last year I went in for a lot of Parrot tulips like Weber's Parrot, Orange Favourite, Estella Rynveld with white and red stripes and Rococco an amazing red which open its petals so much they look like frilly doilies.The Weber's Parrot although beautiful I think has suffered from over breeding. Its heads become so heavy they droop and can snap off and for this reason I vowed not to bother to grow them again. Although I adore the Parrot tulips I have a nasty feeling I didn't order that many last year and I've no means of finding out what is in what pot because those naughty ducks have taken out the labels to make nests with. They never stay in their nests - they may lay an egg in one but that's about it - they walk away with never a backwards glance. So far this year we've had ten eggs and oh fool that I m I've popped seven in an incubator to see what'll happen. Heaven knows if they all hatch what we'll do with seven more ducks - especially if they're all boys which is their tendency. Still I'm only half expecting success as the male duck Mr Walters, who however many years ago it was came as a young, sleek, black male with his equally beautiful wife Mrs Walters long deceased, is probably impotent by now. He's certainly gone almost completely white but has a bevy of assorted females that keep him happy(and he them I suspect.}
a jug of Weber's Parrot tulips

An apricot foxglove that thoughtfully seeded itself to complement the colour of the house.

Meanwhile, we are surrounded by mole hills! Where the horses are there is a river running near the bottom of their field and when we had all that rain the field flooded and it was so strange to see swans swimming around by their feet. The field quickly became full of mole hills as well as swans. Poor things, their runs were getting flooded and they had to move up hill. Well we are nearly three miles from the river up on our hill so they had a long trek and must reckon they are safe up here. But not from cats! One of the two suspects pictured below brought in a dead mole. They must have been waiting for it to pop its head up and acted quickly. Perhaps they worked together but as they don't like each other very much I have my doubts. Perhaps they wanted to make a moleskin waistcoat.

Number one suspect Nancy

Number 2 suspect Pocket  (quarter Bengal)

In its honour here is a poem by Primo Levi.

Old Mole

What’s strange about it? I didn’t like the sky,
So chose to live alone and in the dark.
My hands were made for digging,
Concave, hooked, but sensitive and tough.
Now I travel, sleepless,
Imperceptible under the meadows,
Where I feel neither cold nor heat,
Nor wind rain day night snow,
Where eyes are of no more use to me.
I dig and find succulent roots,
Tubers, rotten wood, mushroom filaments,
And if a boulder blocks my path
I go around it, laboriously but unhurried,
Because I’m always sure of where I want to go.
I find earthworms, larvae, salamanders,
At times a truffle,
At others a viper – a fine meal –
And treasures buried by who knows whom.
In earlier days I followed female moles,
And when I heard one scratching,
Dug my way towards her.
No more. If it happens now, I change direction.
But when the moon is new I get excited.
Then, sometimes I amuse myself
By suddenly popping out to frighten dogs.

Primo Levi

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The cart

I think I must change the title of my blog to gardens, dogs, poetry and WEATHER as I seem to mention it rather a lot.  But when you are dealing with gardens and walking dogs, it does dictate. Of course I could just stay in and write poetry I suppose and not mention the Weather -but now I am I just want to say how wrong I was about the Heatwave! I don't know who told me it was going to be hot but it was not true and I haven't seen a single bee. Still some of the plants arrived to-day for planting out new borders for people and I've got the summer flowering bulbs to put in too. I'm doing a bed of Acidanthera murielae for someone, my favourite summer flowering bulb if we're not counting dahlias which aren't bulbs anyway. I am planting them en masse with Verbena bonarienses. They'll be out about the same time and should look good echoing the other bed(see next picture)which has lots of Eupatorium atropurpureum in, another plant which I love using as a backdrop. You can see them in the picture towering above everything else

Acidanthera murielae

Eupatorium atropurpureum towering at the back

Got the cart out in readiness to take Harry out across the fields. It's an old wooden milk cart from the thirties, when farmers used to leave their churns at the end of their roads. It's a real off-road vehicle which is great up here because it means we can go round the fields without fear of toppling over. Harry is fantastic in the cart, he trots long with his ears pricked and nothing fazes him. The big beautiful Trude, who after all is a Friesian and made for pulling carriages(especially funeral carriages when they wear those black plumes on their heads) would be rubbish at it. Everything, even cow parsley waving in the verge, makes her jump. They do wear blinkers of course, but apparently that's to stop them turning round and seeing they're pulling a cart. They're quite happy pulling one they just don't want to see it.
Because of this useful information I wrote Harry a poem.

Harry and the cart


Harry - you look so smart
Pulling the new cart
the cart which I bought from Exchange and
Each day we depart in the cart
Into the heart of darkness and beyond
In the cart we chart new territories
In the cart we're never apart
And Harrys says
"Cart? What cart?" 

Beezle pretending he's not around so he doesn't have to go in the cart.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Veg gardens

Well I was wrong about the weather over the weekend but right about the duck egg! On Saturday morning the first egg of the year was lying confidently in the straw when I let the ducks out and another one was there this morning. Don't want to harp on too much about this time last year but this time last year we'd actually hatched some! Must look out for hidden nests - there are five females altogether and so far just the one is laying.  Some of them  like to make nests behind the bushes and round the back of the flower pots and then you've no idea how long they've been there. Apart from running a cold bath when you're longing for a hot one, there isn't much more disappointing than having a rotten egg when you want to make an omelette with only one egg left. (I exaggerate of course - there are masses of things more disappointing - like setting out on an adventure in the car and finding you've got a flat tyre and you can't undo the wheel nut.}

So, with the promise of a warm week to come I'm thinking of vegetables and thought I'd post up some pics of vegetable gardens that I've made with the help of my friend Matt who does all the wonderful construction work. Here are three more veg gardens done for clients. I must say I wish I had a veg garden like any of these. We don't have the room here and anyway the veg patch we used to have has gone now as we built The Pink Tower on it. So not only do I not have a veg garden like these - I don't have a veg garden at all. Still, it doesn't stop me thinking about vegetables and where I might squeeze some in.

this one is edged with step over apple cordons but they are out of sight.

And this - also out of sight - is edged with lavender and purple sage.

The lilies are poking up now in the pots in the polytunnel. I grow pots of Casa Blanca and Speciosum album which I get from Peter Nyssen Bulbs. They are wholesalers but don't seem to mind selling to the general public and they have a wide variety of bulbs. I get my tulips from them too.This one below- Lilium Nepalense- is outstanding. I can usually only afford one each year as they are pricey but they are so beautiful. I rarely get them to flower again the following year which all the other lilies do most obligingly.
Lilium Napelense
The amaryllis in the house are putting up a grand display right now and some of them are sending out quite a few flower spikes - so just as you think that's it for the year and you cut down the old stem - another one shoots up when your back is turned.
Amaryllis Green Goddess

Amaryllis Matterhorn

The gate leading to the veg garden I used to have!

In my next life I might grow more vegetables. Meanwhile - this poem by George Carlin has a rather better view on a next life.

My Next Life

I want to live my next life backwards;
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day.
Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.
Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
Then when you start work you get a gold watch on your first day.
You work 40 years until you're too young to work.
You get ready for High school: drink alcohol, party, and you're generally promiscuous.
Then you go to primary school, you become a kid. you play, and you have no responsibilities.
Then you become a baby, and then ...
You spend your last nine months floating peacefully in
luxury, in Spa-like conditions - central heating, room service on tap, and then ...
You finish off as an orgasm.
I rest my case.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mr and Mrs Andrews

Holidays are over now and we are about to enter the SUMMER term! Ha! They've forecast a fantastically hot week coming up so that's exciting especially as we have completely run out of logs (as well as hay). We went up to the National Gallery to get warm where this painting of Thomas Gainsborough's is. The poet Paul Durcan has produced a great book called Give Me Your Hand, inspired by the paintings in the National Gallery. This poem of his, related to the painting of Mr and Mrs Andrews, always makes me laugh.
Mr and Mrs Andrews

Mr and Mrs Andrews 

He is sulking because he wants his din-dins.

Fanning myself in the Suffolk desert
I mince round a corner of horizon
And there midst all that silly sand
Is a wrought -iron garden seat
Peeking out of an old oak tree,
Stooks, sheepies, poppy
And, choreographed on seat,

The sort of dream out of which stuff is made.
In most a la modish blue frock,
Pink high heel slippers,
Floppy hat,
And, lounging up against rail of seat
Like a skimpy stag against its scratching post,
One's very own chap,
A spaniel in his parts
Taking time off from his economics lectures
Or his ballet classes or whatever.

Bobsie Andrews and Me:
We two drips together dripping.
I murder him
With his own gun.
The nice thing is that the neighbours
Think it an accident.

I think my feeling was that I did not really want
To have to share the landscape.
It is a rather fetching landscape
In spite of all that suffocation
And I think I will rather enjoy it on my own
for the next fifty years
And not spoil it with children and inheritance
And all that sort of thing.

Couldn't resist putting up these pics of this time last year when Spring was so hot and things came up early. Even the bluebells were before their time and you can just see some at the edge of the field. At the moment they are still hugging the ground in the woods and the wild garlic just unfurling their bright green leaves. Fabulous in a salad or in a home made pesto instead of using basil leaves.
So if the forecast is correct I predict the humming of bees and the roaring of lawnmowers. May be my ducks will start laying their eggs again. They've considered it too cold.


And here is Pixie - wondering what on earth  I am doing sitting on a bench in an a la modish blue frock with a gun in my hand.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


I  managed to get the last three species Gladiolus Ruby bulbs from Avon bulbs this morning which was cheering. This is a fabulous gladiolus and used by Norrie and Sandra Pope in the garden they once created at Hadspen. It's a fantastic colour with beautiful cup shaped flowers. 
 I have great hopes for the bulbs and also the zinnia seedlings which I think I promised to put pictures up of though clearly these are not snaps of them as babies but full grown in your face flowering sensations.
Gladiolus Ruby
The horses meanwhile are shedding their coats left right and centre and a cloud of black and white hair flies off into the air to be used, I hope, as comfy horsehair mattresses in all the local birds' nests.
As I was grooming them in the stable I glanced up at last year's swallows' nests and am hoping they'll return. We produced two batches of fledglings last year which entertained us by doing aerial acrobatics in the yard, catching the early evening flies and wobbling precariously on the telegraph wires. I believe that swallows return to the same nests each year and wonder how they must feel to find that after flying all that way someone has shut the stable door and they can't get in. Or worse, have turned their nesting site into a barn conversion.
Zinnia Lime Green

Zinnia giant orange
There is a great poem, with birds heading home in mind, by Mary Oliver

     Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Zinnia giant wine
Unfortunately birds and cats do not sit happily together and our fierce cat Pocket (quarter Bengal) is very adept at catching them. Fortunately he is asleep at the moment and the word's round the block that they can all have a go on the bird feeder without being pounced on right now.
the very fierce Pocket(quarter Bengal)

Monday, 8 April 2013


The tractors were out this morning ploughing, with a flock of gulls wheeling and diving behind them after all those juicy worms. We are no where near the sea and I love seeing and hearing the gulls when they are up here. I miss the sea and sometimes on early mornings I imagine the mist hanging in the valley is indeed an expanse of water. It does often look like that - with little islands emerging through the mist.

My grandfather - known to everyone as Skipper -  was a sea captain and he told me that the souls of sailors turn into seagulls. I always think of that when I watch them. In fact on the day of his funeral, we all climbed into the car to follow his coffin as it left  his house and I turned back and saw a huge herring gull sitting on his chimney pot.

It inspired me to write this poem

Air Borne

Jack Tar, mariner, bosun, coxswain
able seaman, lighterman, ferryman
and captain
sea dogs once now
sea lords flying
cruising and coasting
mewing and crying
plying for fish
they tease and bait
sea farer
now voyager
they circumnavigate.

So how many ways does a sailor die?
Torpedoed, capsized
washed ashore
trawling, brawling
with mates for a whore
in Shanghai.

Cold in Archangel
and out of reach
or covered in flies
on a bone-china beach.

Then what becomes of
the sailor’s souls,
these birds and gulls,
at their demise?
Tarred and feathered
weathered and dumb.
Strangled in plastic
Is what they become.

There  - still banging on about all that plastic in the sea though actually I wrote this poem years ago now.
I adored my grandfather, he was a fantastic story teller and had sailed three times round the world in those square rigged sailing ships. His adventures were incredible. Wherever there was danger it would appear that my Grandfather would be in the midst of it..

The renowned poet John Freeman's grandfather was also a sailor and it transpired that both his and my grandfather had sailed round Cape Horn - one of the most dangerous shipping routes there is.
Here is one of his poems.

My Grandfather's hat

Most of the time I saw Granddad indoors,
first in his dark room with blue gas mantles
and a kitchen range and one tall window
in Poplar, then in the overheated lounge
of Aunt Nell and Uncle George’s new flat
in Morden when he was in his nineties.
But he came to stay in our house sometimes,
and it must have been when he was leaving
that I saw him wearing his trilby hat.
It was grey and sleek like a new plush toy.
No one had ever made our two front steps
more like a staircase in a stately home,
not even Mum with her polio feet.
Crowning himself slowly, his own archbishop,
holding on to a handrail like a sceptre,
he turned with no more haste than one of the ships
he had sailed in round Cape Horn as a boy
in another century, approached each step
like a descent to be addressed with ropes.
Grandly he lowered one foot, then the other,
while we watched him, silently exclaiming
vivat, and the black and white chess-board
of the path to the front gate stretched out
like a long drive lined with waving flags.

John Freeman

And talking of hats - here's a picture of Pixie who has just eaten one.
People say that wolfhounds must eat a lot - this is true - our last wolfhound ate our sofa as well as numerous shoes(only one of each pair annoyingly) and (obviously) the birthday cake, the easter eggs and the Christmas turkey.