Thursday, 30 May 2013


'Is it me,' says Daisy, as she takes her morning constitutional, stopping only to deposit her customary pile o'poop 'neath the willow arch, 'or has our garden area shrunk overnight? Is it the rain, do you think?'
Primrose is still in the pod atop the nest. She shouts, 'Gardens don't shrink in the rain. If anything, they grow bigger because the plants react to the sudden burst of watering and sprout upwards and outwards ever so quickly.'
'Perhaps we're in a sort of reverse Tardis,' says Daisy.
'I can't hear you,' shouts Primrose. 'Wait until I've popped out this egg and I'll come and investigate.'

Egg duly laid, Primrose appears and surveys the garden. It is, as Daisy says, looking considerably smaller than it did the previous day. Primrose knows this because usually it takes her 6.3 seconds to leg it, high speed, from one end to t'other, and today it takes her a mere 4.2 seconds and she can't stop quickly enough as the perimeter fast approaches, and thus ends up with her head stuck in the fence netting.

Once Daisy has stopped laughing, she offers a helping wing to extricate Primrose.
'I can manage, thank you,' says Primrose, a tad coldly Daisy thinks, because it was a very funny thing to happen and has brightened her day considerably. 

'What do you think of my reverse Tardis theory?' says Daisy.
'I think it is ridiculous,' says Primrose, 'mostly because I can see exactly what has happened. Our fence has been moved.'
'But why?' says Daisy, who is a big girl and if she had her way would take over the entire garden and half the local park, too.
Primrose shrugs. 'No idea,' she says.
'Why?' wails Daisy, who is beginning to feel a tad claustrophobic.'Why, oh why, oh WHY,WHY, WHYYYYYY????'

'What are you shouting about?' says the Lady of the Manor (that'd be moi), emerging from the back door in her polka dot jim-jams, hair in a fetching hairnet and covered in rejuvenating cold cream (me, not the hairnet. Or the jim-jams.)

'What's happened to our fence?' Daisy continues to wail. 'What, what, WHAT? WHY?HOW???'
'Shall I slap her beak?' offers Primrose. 'I'm not sure how much hysteria I can cope with this early in the morning.'
'That won't be necessary,' says I. 'Andy moved your fence because we are having a new fence put up along one side of the garden today, and your run will be in the way of the builders. You need to be constrained for a couple of days.'

Daisy immediately stops wailing. 'Two days?' she says.
'That's all,' I say.
'Builders in the garden?' says Daisy.
'Indeed,' I say.
'Ah well,' says Daisy. 'That makes all the difference.' And she vanishes into the pod.

'She took that well,' observes Primrose.
'Indeed,' I say.

Almost immediately, Daisy emerges from the pod along with a deckchair, a footstool, a large thermos flask, a tiffin box, a pair of binoculars and a massive umbrella.

'Oh, oh,' says Primrose, as we survey Daisy setting up what can only be described as a viewing area.
'She's going to sit and watch fence building all day, isn't she?' says I.
'Looks like it,' says Primrose.
'I have to go to work today,' I say. 'Revision classes. So I am trusting you to keep an eye on her. Phone immediately if she starts any inappropriate behaviour.'
'I know,' says Primrose. 'Wolf whistling, winking and goosing the builders will not be tolerated.'
'Quite right,' says I.

Today, we had a new fence built. It looks fabulous! 

Daisy enjoyed the day enormously.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Massive Motivation

It's amazing what one can do when one is feeling motivated. Yesterday, for example, I was on motivation fire! Part of it may have been because of my newest cleaning toy - a steamer cleaner - which is very addictive and, I have discovered, brings the notion upon oneself that if it ain't moving -steam clean it! It is a marvellous piece of kit!

And then I filled out my income tax self-assessment form, posted it and paid my NI contributions bill all in the space of an hour! No hanging about there, but I do wonder if I can bill the Inland Revenue for that hour of my time, being as that I am now an official self-employed person? 

And today, by ten o'clock of the morning, Andy and I had done an impromptu de-clutter of the loft and taken two car loads - yes, TWO CAR LOADS - of 'stuff' to the tip! And that didn't include the large box awaiting delivery to the charity shop, PLUS the seven bin bags of stuff the charity shop collected yesterday of what I gathered from upstairs and downstairs in the hour between steam cleaning and tax form a-filling. The loft, I can now report, sounds positively echoey!

And then there are the biker boots, electric guitar, amplifier and screwdriver set that belong to Christopher that are awaiting collection by him, or rejection by him, in which case there will be another trip to the tip. Not quite another car load, but I am sure if I put my mind to it I can harvest some more detritus from loft, given how ruthless I was this morning.

And what has brought about this sudden bout of motivated activity? I have no idea, other than perhaps the Spring Cleaning clock going off a bit late.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

We Have Babies!

Fabulous weekend, weatherwise, and about time too, given the whole grimness of the season so far. And so yesterday we hied ourselves to the Kent Garden Show and returned with twenty five sweet pea plants, because I was too tardy to get the seeds planted this year, and four clematis (Clematii? Clematium??) for the back garden to act as a spot of camouflage on the back wall of the house. One was earmarked to replace one of the two at the front of the house that I thought had died but, on closer inspection today I can see has resprouted, so not dead after all.

And today, a sunny morning allotmenteering and hark! What was that noise a-coming from the nest box on the strange little greenhouse arrangement that is soon to be home to the gazzillion aubergines plants Andy has managed to cultivate? Why, 'twas the 'peep, peep, peeping' of baby blue tits! Of course, it was much more entertaining to sit on the path in the sunshine and watch Mummy and Daddy Blue Tit popping in and out of the box with various grubs, than continuing to wage war against mare's tail and bindweed (although don't tell anyone BUT we are winning the war aha!). 

And because it would have been foolish to waste this wonderful weather, nay criminal even, we finished the day with an impromptu family picnic in the park. We played chase ( Kayleigh outran us all - oh, the energy of youth) and rolling down the hill. We made daisy chains and blew on dandelion clocks. We were almost adopted by a crazy springer spaniel who was cheerfully defiant of her owner's maniacal whistle to return to her side. Kayleigh covered herself with grass cuttings, no idea why but obviously a good idea at the time. We were stalked by a hopeful crow. We found the longest worm in the history of worminess.

And now that best type of tiredness has descended. What I call 'fresh air' tiredness. The kind of heavy- eyed contented weariness that follows a productive day outside. 

The weather looks good for tomorrow, too. Planning to plant some sunflowers, courgettes, rocket and more beans. Another picnic looks likely, along with a visit to a National Trust house, probably Chartwell because the last time we visited was just before we got married 9 years ago and I sat on an ant's nest which was HILARIOUS!!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

From big'uns to little 'uns

My Year 11s have gone on study leave. I can do no more. One made a brief return to see me yesterday, and hugged me and said, 'I miss you!' which was nice.

And so I have rejigged my timetable with an assortment of Year 7 and Year 8 (that's 11 and 12 year olds to those of you who live by foreign currency). 

And I have to say ( and don't tell Year 11 I said this) that Year 7 and 8 are a lot of fun. And there is only one lad I think I may develop the urge to shake by the ears in due course, and that is because he is a moany, whingy, whiney pants. But for now I maintain a graceful patience and only occasionally tell him he sounds just like a petulant two year old.

I think this batch of students are more fun than the older ones mostly because they haven't yet properly discovered the opposite sex and they still think the word 'poo' is hilarious. They have a bigger sense of enthusiasm and joie de vivre, and they can build up enormous indignation to all sorts of little problems, which always makes me laugh. They are all so earnest, and when they tell you something, anything, it is like they are the first person ever in the world to have that experience, and their passion is such that you forget that you have heard similar tales a hundred times before and listen with eyes agog and breathless anticipation of what will happen next.

This week then, I have:

1) started projects including inventing a punctuation game, exploring the biology of the face, making origami and mosaics and creating an imaginary world with dragons and stuff
2) taught science and Maths using Maltesers
3) been into Art class and drawn an antelope head and a cuckoo
4) heard heart-rending stories about various home lives
5) sung 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands' in a spontaneous choral moment 
6) unscrambled some very peculiar spellings including 'yoused', 'maeij' and 'injoure' ( aka 'used', 'magic' and 'enjoy')
7) been mocked for my salad lunches/ being a vegetarian/ not knowing that Deadly Assassins 3 is the BEST X-box game EVER
8) sampled an apple crumble (very nice) and a spicy dip (very dubious) from Food Tech endeavours
9) listened to the story 'How I ripped my kidney open on a bicycle handle' being told with great relish without throwing up
10) laughed A LOT!!!

Many teachers I know aren't keen on teaching little 'uns. 

But I love it!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Things That Go Bump In The Shepherd's Hut

Here I am! All in one piece and for that I am grateful, because things could have been so much worse...

(At this point I do not want to alarm my Mum, so I am going to say 'I am okay, Mum - do not be alarmed!')

And so I continue... last weekend found Andy and me in Suffolk, in a shepherd's hut, doing a spot o' glamping. 'Twas Andy's birthday, and we have decided that we are of an age where we don't really want to be spending money on birthday tat so we're going to spend money on birthday weekends away instead. It was a bit of a posh shepherd's hut - massive bed, wood burning stove, private shower room, set in a woodland area, all very  nice. 

Except the peace and stillness of the first night was disturbed by the branches of the tree hanging over the hut scraping against the roof in a teeth-edging 'eeek, eeeek, screeeeeeekkkkk,' kind of way. 

So the next day, we decided to take action. Of course, sensible glampers would have called the owners of the hut and said, 'Please could you come out today with a saw and sort out these over-hanging tree branches,' but Andy and I were high on the excitement of a visit to Sutton Hoo, not to mention seeing pigs in fields and a kookaburra, so we thought, 'We can deal with a tree branch. We are allotmenteers! We have collected swarms of bees! We have no fear of the natural world. Except bears, maybe.'

So Andy went outside the hut, and I stood on the bed and hung from the small window in order to grab the branch and bend it down towards Andy as far as possible so he could grab it and snap it off at the screechy point. 

Now, the important thing you need to know about the bed upon which I was standing is that it was taller than your average bed. It was what I call a 'Princess and the Pea' bed. At least three feet high. Could have done with a step ladder to climb up on it, but a gentle vault sufficed. But it was tall. Very tall.

Anyway, I leant from the window, grabbed the branch, bent it down towards Andy, who hung on to it for grim death. So far so good. The screeching stopped. And I thought, 'I'll go outside and help Andy break the branch.'

And then, dear reader, I performed what I can only describe as the most stupid manoeuvre of my life. To this moment I still do not know of what I was thinking.

I decided that it would be a good idea to step, from my standing position, BACKWARDS off the bed in one step to the floor.

Now doing this from a standard height bed could be deemed as being marginally stupid, but from a bed of enormous height? I realised, as I plunged backwards, in what seemed to be slow motion, that this had to go down as the most stupid idea I have had for, oh, at least twenty eight years. 

I flailed wildly in an attempt to save myself. I hit the floor standing, then lost balance and ricocheted into the chest of drawers which bore enormous knobs. I rebounded off the chest of drawers across the hut and back into the bed. I seem to remember at this point I may have sworn a bit.

Andy said from outside the hut it sounded very spectacular. He found me sprawled on the bed, going 'Ow, ow, ooooow!' Or something like that.

I have a bruise the size of a side plate on my right upper arm. It bloody hurts. I have been covering it up with a variety of cardigans all week in order to avoid awkward questions being asked at work.

I am such an idiot. 

On more positive notes, we had the first harvest from our allotment today - lovely rhubarb! The allotment is looking good. Potatoes, beans and shallots are in, strawberries, beetroot , parsnips, carrots and radish going in tomorrow. Tomatoes, cucumbers, more beans and aubergines are taking over the greenhouse. A landscaper man has been secured to sort out the patio, renew the fence and returf the lawn in the back garden. Pandora is making steady steps towards better health, and I have been offered a full time contract at my school to carry on tutoring for another year. 

Now, if only I could find some anti-stupid medicine...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Whenever Sainsbugs deem their gerbera to be past their 'best before' date (a BB date? On a PLANT???) they put them on the 'SELL NOW- BARGAIN' stand alongside the hardening bread rolls and looking ever-so-slightly-like-there-could-be-a-hint-of-mould cheese oddments, at a reduced price, usually £3.99 down to £1.99.

And I rescue them, and nurse them back to health so their bright and breezy neon coloured cheerfulness can grace the living room window for months to come and distract me from the fact there is a main road outside.

At the moment there are 4 in residence - a red one, a pink one, an orange one and a white one...

...until half an hour ago when Andy collected me from Sainsbugs and spied a yellow one poking from the top of the basket.

'I haven't got a yellow one,' says I, by way of excuse, don't know why because Andy does not mind what I buy.

'Should we start a gerbera rescue centre?' says he.

I give this a moment of thought. 'Best not,' I say. 'Because I suspect there could be some confusion and we might find gerbils being left on the doorstep. And given Pandora is no longer allowed the varied diet she once enjoyed, it could tempt fate.'

So we shall not be starting a gerbera rescue centre in case we find ourselves overrun with rodents.

But I shall still be smuggling the sad and discarded ones out of Sainsbugs whenever I get the chance.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Dear God...

Dear God,

Hello! How are you? Hope you are enjoying your day off, although I expect in this day and age Sundays are taken over by paperwork and admin. Still, it's a Bank Holiday, and a lovely sunny one at that here in Kent, so hope same is with you.

I thought I'd write to you rather than using the usual form of communication because I want to make sure my question gets through. I am sure the usual method is being hindered by the increase in mobile phone masts and satellite TV clogging up the airways. So my question is this...

...can you explain, please God, what the reason is for the existence of the plant mare's tail? I say this as an allotmenteer who has spent 4 hours this morning digging the stuff up from her plot and feeling like she is not actually getting anywhere. There is so much mare's tail that we are in danger of turning into Follyfoot Farm. I'm half expecting Black Beauty to come galloping across the site with all the Thelwell ponies in tow.

And is it true, God, what I have read on the RHS website? That mare's tail is the most pernicious of weeds and once you've got it, you might as well say goodbye to your social life because it'll never go away and you will spend every waking hour trying to weed it out and/or hacking off every head that dares pop above soil level? If it is, God, then may I be so bold as to suggest that this plant wasn't one of you best ideas?

Whilst I am here, God, can I get a blessing for the dead rat that we found? The semi-decomposed, covered in flies, smelt like cat poo dead rat? Andy scraped it up as best he could given its putrified state and gave it a burial at sea - well, in the river actually. He dealt with it because he is a vet and a man so drew the short straw on both counts. I did my bit by finding it in the first place and not immediately throwing up.

Oh, and can I get a couple of 'thank you, bless yous,' too, to the nice neighbour who gave us some tomato and lettuce plants, and the other nice neighbour who popped across to tell us what a good job we were doing? Luckily, I wasn't swearing at the mare's tail when she did, because Andy had just made a nice cuppa on the camping stove and my blood sugar was high on a shortbread finger.

And whilst I am here, can I just bring up the subject of mosquitos? And could something possibly done to stop them making a bee-line for me as soon as I pick up my gardening fork? And if they still find me too irresistible and bite anyway, please could I not swell up like a balloon and itch for three weeks after? Thanks.

I think that's about it, God. Thank you for all the birds that visited today - the robin, the blue tits, the woodpecker, the geese, the two gentlemen blackbirds in hot pursuit of the lady blackbird and the thrush who got into the netted area of the allotment that was erected especially to keep birds out and away from the soft fruit.

And thank you for all the butterflies and bees, too, and the forsythia that is in full blossom, and the hop bine I found and almost pulled up because all I could see at that point was flipping mare's tail.

And thank you for reminding Andy to wear his hat so he didn't come home with a boiled head.

That's all, God. I'll wait to hear back from you vis a vis the mare's tail, shall I? Thanks for listening!

P.S Even though yesterday was 'Garden in the Nude Day,' I kept all my clothes on, mostly because of the mosquitos and despite my friend Vera saying that as I am going to be 48 this year I am just about old enough to start dipping my toes in the pond of eccentricity. And I wouldn't really want to perch on a spike of mare's tail sans pantaloons either.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

At the End of the Day and Other Ramblings

It has become my ambition to get through the day without hearing the phrase, 'At the end of the day.' What does that mean anyway, 'At the end of the day?' I tell you what it means. It means NOTHING, that is what it means. It goes on my list of no-nos along with the misuse of the words 'legendary' and 'awesome.'

But then there are several things that bemuse me. Like tattoos and piercings. I say this as someone who is too scared to have either. Actually, I say it as someone who does not feel the need for extraneous holes upon my person, and someone who looked down at the area between her knees and feet today, surveyed the sudden appearance of what can only be described as elephant wrinkles and thought, 'thank goodness I never had that butterfly tattoo on my ankle that I toyed with years ago because now it would be looking like a deflated caterpillar. Or some kind of rainbow poo.'

Ducklings and goslings have appeared on the lake in the park. Spring has officially arrived although come the evenings I still feel inexplicably cold. I am on the verge of blaming my thyroid, and keep poking my neck for any suspicious swellings. All this does is make me cough. I discarded my fluffy socks a couple of weeks ago because it seemed absurd to be wearing fluffy socks in April, for goodness' sake, but my feet turn blue in the evenings, and what with the coughing I think I might need to reinstate the socks. And a scarf.

Andy managed to throw a jar of marmalade across the kitchen floor this morning in a quite spectacular and nerve shattering display of 'Oopsadaisy!' Now I know we are still trying to wade through the results of my mammoth marmalade making session of 2011, but really there was no need for that, dear heart. I mean, I made a marmalade cake last week. That got rid of 4 tablespoons.

The Year 11s are getting very fidgety as study leave and exams approach. Some of them are trying to escape early using tenuous excuses as they are rounded up on the school drive way like wayward gnu. 'But Mr Jones said we could go bowling.' Yeah, right. It's like manning Colditz sometimes. Darren said, 'Will you miss me, Miss?' 'No,Darren,' said I. 'Bet you will,' said Darren. 'I'll come back and visit you.' 'Please don't,' said I. He laughed. I suspect he may think he has spotted some irony, something we have been practising for his exam. I want to tell him he hasn't.

I continue my master plan to plant the entire world,nay the Universe, with lavender by installing 5 more plants in the back garden. That makes 19 now. I ought to make it a round 20, but I prefer odd numbers so perhaps 21 then. I love lavender. Can one have too much lavender? I don't think so. I wish it could survive as a houseplant. Then I could line ALL the windows in the house with pots of lavender and ruffle them as I pass by. Everyone would be in a soporific stupor by Friday.

Pandora is a bit better. The last time I said this, she got worse. So forget I said that. (But she is!)

After 12 years with the same company we have decided to change our broadband Internet supplier. This is clearly the act of crazy people because something is bound to go hideously wrong during the changeover, and we shall become embroiled in some dreadful customer service debacle and in two years time we shall have to involve The Guardian Money page to sort it all out, whereby we shall be offered a derisory £25 in compensation for the distress caused, along with a bouquet of flowers that wilt and die within 12 hours of being delivered. Watch this space for the inevitable rant-a-roony.

I think Joan Collins should avoid wearing ruched satin because it makes her look like a half empty loo roll that has been dropped in water and then dried out on a very hot radiator.

I brought some forget-me-nots home from the allotment at the weekend and put them in a clear glass vase of water. I can see that they are starting to sprout roots. Do I put them back in the ground in the front garden? Will they survive? Shall I transfer them into a pot first, then pop 'em in the ground when they have finished flowering? Oh Lord - why am I being tormented with angst about forget-me-nots.

Apparently the DVD of The Life of Pi is out now. I tried reading the book but didn't get very far. Might do better with the film. What I am really waiting for is the arrival of the Pie of Pi. So long as it is vegetarian. With a nice cheesy crust.

And that, at the end of the day, concludes my ramblings.