There used to be a herb bed on the plot, only it is now full of mint. Mint truly is a thug, the cliché is true. Unchecked, it runs riot and takes over. With the unbalanced combination of rain and sun, the plot mint has grown quite a bit. This has meant mint marauding, chopping it back to harvest leaves. As you can see, the bouquets were nearly as big as me, and three large bundles of the stuff were harvested. I guess that you can never have too much mint! Having harvested it all and carried it home, Mama F and I spent a few hours at the dining table stripping the leaves so that it could all be frozen. There are several different varieties, with some smelling like spearmint and chocolate mint in there somewhere too. It would take a proper connoisseur to smell out the different mint varieties.
At the moment, I have vague plans to make mint jelly. Usually, the plot mint ends up in chutney; Mum can rest assured, there is tonnes still left for her to use.
The second half of the day focussed on Mum’s mooli pods. She had found that the radishes that she sown had bolted; as such, there were lots of seed pods.
These are actually edible, and different varieties of radish will produce seed pods of different potencies. For example, seed pods from Japanese radish have a peppery fiery-ness. In the image above, these are pods from an unknown red variety, and these were quite sweet to the taste. As you can imagine, I was going a little dotty anyway, having plucked away all that mint. However, as Mum had helped me, I was going to help her. All We had harvested less than half of her entire bolted radish crop, yet we managed to fill three troughs of seed pods. How I did not see seedpods in my sleep, I do not know.
Mum plans to cook up the seed pods; the recipe is in sow grow eat!
Other than mint marauding, I was loitering with therapeutic intent as well. I’ve not een to the plot in a while, so have missed the blooms blossom. Shakespeare is well and truly kicking off, and the glads have finally kicked. I have the standard, as expected six pears on the tree-it’s always six, no idea why-with tomatoes making slow but certain progress. I’m not holding my breath with the tomatoes; there will be a significantly smaller crop than expected, and no puddles of tomatoes like last year. There are fewer plants, and I don’t think the Roma variety will keep their place on the plot. Marmande appears to be the winner as per usual. All three of the grapevines are burgeoning; lusciously leafy, there are clusters of grapes starting to swell. With raspberries creaking to an end, I was able to harvest a handful of plump ‘darrow’ blueberries. The other two varieties haven’t so much as sneezed this year, the one plant is turning copper and going to sleep.
P.S. yes, I know, need allotment proof nail varnish.
I rather cherish the memories of standing in Mum’s kitchen holding my own books in my hands. Each time, there has been a smile as to having worked hard and crafting something that I am very proud of and ultimately would like to share with others. I am not writing anything at the moment; my pens have temporarily fallen silent and are reflecting on new possible stories.
I am also involved in a project called the Peace Series That link will take you to the Facebook page. There is even an event that will hopefully plant Peace firmly on the map. My contribution is scheduled for release early in 2018, and is currently being polished.
There were plans to write a cookbook! Plans being plans, this is on pause; I will get around to that eventually.
For now, I have three books in circulation that I am genuinely proud to have written and developed. Two, are primarily to do with gardening and cooking; with this year being a poor year on the allotment plot, they are a reminder of good times, of fruitful times.
Then there is ‘Fragments’, which is my first foray in to writing fiction. This does not mean I have abandoned my green plot. Simply that I have decided to add an additional string and broadened my horizons a little more.
Bit of a heads up. This is not a fluffy book with hearts, rainbows and butterflies. It’s not a textbook either!
Above are a selection of passages from Fragments, these touch on the six different stories that are interwoven to paint a picture of how loss and bereavement may effect us. The people and their experiences are varied and diverse; I wanted to write stories that could be seen to reflect and represent the world around me and to some extent how I see it.
I like my book; I am however, very biased. It is seeing and hearing that other people have picked it up, read it and invested in it that truly makes me feel less biased.
You can find the ebook here . For paperback, click here. If you happen to be in the USA, you can even walk into Pipe and Thimble in Lomita, California to buy a copy! The store is the only place on the globe that actually holds any of my books right now. That in itself is a tad mind blowing.
If you do invest in a copy, of either version, then please share and leave the review. As a non-traditional, self published author, I am a cog in the Indie publishing world. Reviews help that universe expand, allowing books that we wouldn’t ordinarily come across become more visible. This expansion then allows myself and other Indie authors to be stumbled upon with our works being shared.
Have you seen the sunshine, have you smelt the pollen?!
It’s a bit bright outside, and I don’t recall seeing anything on the weather about it. Anyway, doesn’t matter, I shall do my best to enjoy it.
From the safety of the kitchen, as I cough, splutter and sneeze my way through conference prep.
It is that time of the year again, where I pootle off to the annual conference of The Association of the teaching of Psychology. Having prepared one workshop on mental health and the classroom, I had a second one to prep, but before that, I took a walk to the plot.
I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy; I had already woken up sneezing, dopey, and full of bogey. As such, I had breakfast and dosed myself up with ant-histamine to take my second cuppa tea to the plot with me. The plan was to pick any fruit that had ripened over the last few days. I came away with most of my black and white currants-these are wellington and versaille varieties-with red ones yet to turn, as well as polka raspberries. What I forgot to do was check if any more fall gold raspberries had come through, I realised that after I had come home and had to stick the kettle on again.
The process of picking the fruit was hampered by sneezing and on loop. I was however hell bent on getting it picked, even if I was struggling to breath, coughing up my lungs and couldn’t string a coherent thought together. Up until this year, I have never ever, felt so flipping hamstrung in trying to survive hayfever. It woefully frustrating and does nothing but make me further frustrated by the lack of productivity on the plot.
Real life commitments have made it more difficult to work on the plot, I have spent increased time at work and also had training commitments. As such, bindwind has appeared as though the creature from the black lagoon. It’s a horrible, invasive thing that is probably from outer space.
However, there are some positives. Whilst they are quite diminutive, the roma and marmande tomatoes are starting to flower. I don’t think that there will be much of a bounty this year, but at least I might have some tomatoes to go with the gorgeous roses.
The harvest may be small, but I still had half a plan as to what I might do with the gooseberries. In the past, the crop has been put into gin and jam. There was one small scale experiment of Indian Pickle. Thought I might try it again, and this time extend the recipe a bit.
Going to leave the jars in a darkened room for a bit, they will be very tart right now!
For now, my pen, all three of them actually-are at rest.
All of the writing projects are in a lull. One writing project is being reviewed at a draft level for release slated as March next year. The others being very much being paused due to a lack of mojo. I am taking a rest, as the daydreams have disappeared for a bit and have left me to my own devices.
With that, I have been thinking about Fragments and the process of writing it. What I have been reflecting upon, is why I wrote it and the stories that are within the pages. For days, I have been thinking about what I might share about a book that I feel I had to write, wanted to write and hope that people might something out of. Three things, that are no different to how I felt when writing about my allotment and on this blog. Three very important drives when picking up a pen and committing thoughts and feelings to paper.
‘Fragments’ is not a book full of sunshine, rainbows or butterflies. The theme of the book and that which covers all of the six stories is grief. Grief, bereavement and loss is something, that like taxes is part of our lives.
It happens to us all, but for each of us the journey that occurs is unique.
Grief, bereavement and loss are also veiled in social acceptance; talking about grief, showing how it affects us and then processing it, is all very much on the down low. It is shied away from, thought of as dark, gloomy and best dealt by alone. Grief, bereavement and loss feel spikey; we hold these things at arms length and wrinkle up our noses when faced with them.
‘Fragments’ started it’s life nine months after I experienced the loss of my maternal grandfather. He was the last grandparent. To this day, I remember the message that my sister sent me, I remember telling my mum-the hardest thing, that I have ever had to do-and I remember leaving work, climbing into George, turning off the music, and heading off towards the A444. I remember Nana still being there and at home, whilst I went looking for saucepans and tea bags in the kitchen. I remember cursing March, as it was such a pain in the backside. There was relief when March ended, I can assure you.
Starting to write in November and much later in the year, I didn’t think about purpose, tone or audience. I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book. All I wanted to do, was write down the day dream that I was experiencing and as quick as I could on lined paper with a green biro. I had written two thirds of the first chapter, when I realised that what I was writing was important. I couldn’t give it up, and I had to go with it. There was no plan, I had not plotted out arcs or characters. This was seat of the pants writing, and then some.
I found a notebook, a robust one; I wanted to do this properly. This daydream was far too important to ignore and at this point, I thought about planning what shape it would take.
All in all, six interwoven stories appeared on the page. I know, there are only five on the blurb. But hey, find it, open it, and find the sixth.
There are the Anands, Christopher, Daniel, Michael, Aldo and Matthew within the pages.
The Anands are an Anglo-Indian family who lose a wife and mother. Christopher loses his dog. Daniel loses his husband, Michael and Aldo are parents bereaved. Like me, Matthew experiences the loss of a grandparent.
I have another character in the book. Marcy, a counsellor.
All of these characters, these people somehow reflect the world around me. There were times, that during the writing process they all felt real and very much three-dimensional. Figments of my imagination these characters may have been, but within the pages of Fragments their worlds are some form of reality.
Over the course of nearly two years, the six stories were developed. I must have dragged them on every adventure I went on, used bottles of ink and spent hours poring over the two notebooks that the stories would fill. There were tears, when I felt the stories so strongly and had to sit back with a cuppa to be at arms length. There were smiles when the words flowed. In writing the book, I had put my soul onto the page to go through both pleasure and pain.
When it ended, I felt a loss and not to dissimilar to that experienced by the characters.
Fragments had become a part of me, it contained so much that I thought I had dealt with. It became an act of self care-though, at times when I pushed myself to get it written, this didn’t feel the case. Writing helped me to process what my own feelings and thoughts were and I cannot find the words to convey this more clearly.
When eighty per cent of Fragments was written and Christmas 2016 drawing close, there was another family bereavement.
My pen froze.
December 2016 was painful as Aunty Indra passed away. Again, I was cursing the month for being so awful. I couldn’t write a single solitary thing. I don’t think I was supposed to, the universe didn’t want that to happen and at that point, I put books of any sort aside.
It was an interesting book-end. Fragments started with a death, it was finishing with a death.
Time had to pass and grief had to be processed before I could pick up my pen again. When I did and at the end of January, Fragments was ready to resume its course.
It wasn’t just the writing that was therapeutic. Making the cover was also important to me. Whilst I had the title of the book, nothing felt right when it came to the cover. So much so, I fancied getting creative. In already having a stash for colouring, I knew that I had soft pastels somewhere. I used these to create three different pieces. All blue; blue felt right for this book and I went with it. Playing with sugar paper and soft pastels was rather interesting! What I couldn’t then do, was decide which one would be the cover and the options went to a public vote via social media. I gave no clue as to what the image was for or what the content of book was. In then end, ‘Fabric of the universe’ won and became the book cover.
Recently, when learning about grief and bereavement during my counselling diploma, Fragments took on another dimension. I saw the book, the themes from a different perspective and as being even more real One hell of a light bulb moment occurred, and writing the book felt even more important.
I opened with saying that my pens are at rest. For now, they are and until the mojo returns, that will remain the case.
Until then, I shall be smelling the roses…..
Has flaming June been hot enough for you?
The last week has seen a heatwave move across Blighty. With that, the levels of UV and Pollen have skyrocketed. For me personally, this has meant staying away from the plot as the grass pollen tends to assault my senses and render me sneezy with bogey overload. I can be stood there sneezing and on loop as soon as I get there. At one point, I was dragged away and by my mother whilst trying to find roses.
Today, the weather is distinctly cooler and I can actually stand up straight without having been kiboshed by pollen.
This morning, I have taken a walk down to the plot and tied tomatoes against canes. I have Roma and Marmande varieties sunk into raised beds, and do rather fancy finding some more. If I do manage to successfully cultivate anything on the plot this year, I would like it to be tomatoes; additional plants are on my shopping list for the weekend. A simple as job is and of staking tomatoes, I am glad I did. Over the last few months, going to the plot has been a challenge. For a whole host of different reasons, I have rather lost my zing, and I could feel it all too much. I pottered on the plot this morning, I wandered around-like the proverbial cloud-and then decided that I wanted to see what fruit was growing. I had forgotten what it was like to wander around, pull out weeds, trample over blackberry bushes and just take in the scent of roses. I stood talking with a ‘lotment neighbour, and a gentle breeze carried the scent of zingy lemons towards as we spoke.
Last weekend, I was able to harvest a handful of raspberries to put into jelly-yes, fruit and jelly-along with some black and redcurrants. There were also some red, yellow and green hinonmaki gooseberries that had appeared.
There are gooseberries and raspberries on my plot and also Mama F’s, so I have picked a few of these to take home. I think I have got most of the gooseberries, having had a fight with the bushes; I had forgotten how vicious the damned things can be. Last year, I had made gooseberry and chilli jam. Prior to that, I had steeped some in Gin-now that was interesting-I have yet to work out what I will do this year. It is currently a toss up, between jam and Indian Amla Pickle. It has been far too long since I played with my preserving pan; I need to find the moments, my mojo and a bit of fruit to do it with.
Mum has more raspberries than I; the pinks ones on my plot have never actually taken root and flourished, with the yellows being something of a saving grace when they do crop. A small harvest was made of raspberries and currants; mostly red as I am waiting on the black and white ones to ripen.
Seeing red and purple cherries did make me smile. This is by far the largest harvest that we have to date; I’ve picked those eight, with a few still left to ripen on the morello. The varieties that I have are stella and morello, and these were from Victoriana Nursery in Kent. So far, I have been lucky and not lost them the birds on the allotment.
Given how the weather has only just found it’s footing, the three plot grapevines are foliated and the some. Amongst all of the leaves are small clutches of baby grapes. I don’t remember having any grapes last year, so seeing the bunches is heartening. Not sure if they will make it to homebrew, but there is always grape jelly as an alternative.
As well as the fruit, there are the plot blooms. Roses are coming up lovely , and filling the floral trug with blooms is always nice. I am waiting for the glads to kick off; right now, they have risen blade-like from the dirt and are very green and leafy. I cannot even begin to calculate how much the rose blooms might actually cost. They are by no means perfect; they are au naturale, if you like; but they do smell and look lovely!
“Just think, every sunset is perfect. You don’t sit there, and think that one corner of the sunset could be more red, that one could be more yellow. Each and every part of that sunset is perfect.”
So said a seasoned counsellor who came to speak to my counselling training group earlier in the week.
His words made perfect sense.
Think about what you are, who you are, where you are now. Think about how far you have come; stop beating yourself up and with a flamin’ big stick.
The lead image is sunshine in Dad’s back garden. Beautiful Birmingham blue from left to right, with not a single solitary cloud to be found. Today the weather is amazing, with heat that is basically tropical but with enough pollen to sink a small ship. The latter, is why I have been loitering indoors all day. I have a tendency to sneeze on loop, have streaming eyes and bogey up; it is not a pleasant experience.
To me, that is pretty damned perfect. There is darkness and there is light. There is a whole spectrum within those pixels.
Over the last nine months, I have been undertaking the first year of a Level Four diploma in therapeutic counselling. There is another year to go, and up to this point, things have been wonderfully interesting. Things are not done yet. There is still a lot to play for.
The last year, has been one hell of a journey. The last year, is in itself a portion of a journey that started in the autumn of 2012.
Journey. That word, is key; in journeying, I have experienced highs, lows, tears, tantrums and episodes where I have thrown my hands in the air whilst wondering what the frick was going on. There has been change in the last year. I can say and with some confidence, that I am not the same person that I was and five years ago….five years ago.
Five years ago this month, I had just finished a level two course. It would be July 2015 before I finished level three,the A-level equivalent that built on the first instalment and reminded me of how hard A-levels had been the first time around. Then came Level Three, job changes and all sorts; I started to write the gardening books and the plot was my bolt hole, my sanctuary. With a year out, there was volunteering and using of all the skills that I had gained. I didn’t want what I gained to rust, ebb away having worked really hard. I always had Level Four on my agenda; me being me, I like to do things in order, when I am generally supposed to and focus my attention. Waiting for level 4 felt painful at the time, but I know now that this was important, it helped me to grow and quite literally with the plot at times!
When it came to starting diploma, there was excitement; I wanted to do this, I had waited what felt like an age and it was really important to me. This was the next phase in my development and my own growth. I knew it would be hard.
I harked back to my university days-it is ten years since I graduated from Aston-and this did hang around in my world. This diploma however, a person centred experiential course, was different. This was not just about my brain. This was about my sense of being, my self, who I am and what I am built from.
This, dear readers, was about me being taken apart and being put together.
Anyone who has trained to be a counsellor, will tell you that the training is hard. It is unlike anything that you have ever done; that this, is a journey.
See, that word again.
That is not the word, that resonates the most and for me.
It is certainly the umbrella term. What gets me the most?
So far, has done something of a number on me. I have experienced being broken up, battered, bruised and on so many levels. I have felt like a human lego house, with lots of lights being shone on me and smashed to pieces as I pick up lego bricks to start rebuilding.
Oh, and rainbows. The lego house is full of rainbows. I have found so many different shades to myself and really seen first hand the person centred approach.
When not a smashed up lego house, I have been in the default mode of Knight in dented armour running around with a quiver of roses. In recognising this is my default mode, I have recognised all the dents. I have recognised, that there is armour; some of which is welded on, some of which comes off and is put on as and when.
This first year has been something of a tornado at times. The first term, I was trying to find my feet; there was a significant bereavement that shook the boughs of my figurative trees and really hurt. I was also caught up with fragments, beating myself up with a huge great big imaginary stick, and not really looking after myself. The plot suffered, and my sanctuary felt so far away. It didn’t help, that the winter was in place and the plot was feeling it. In the second term, the middle term I realised why my stress response was and really was a knight standing in the middle of a tornado. I couldn’t connect with the plot, and I felt as though it was so empty and unworked. Term three, the summer term saw buds and blossom.
It has only been in the last two weeks that I have found my zing again.
What I have also found, is me.
And it’s done yet.
I have experienced how counselling and gardening are both about growth. Both are about seeds, developing, growth and being nurtured.
Carl Rogers spoke about potatoes in the basement; that has been so central to the last year, and I can say that now having not thought about it at the time.
Thinking about that picture at the top, I thinking about where I am now. I am thinking about how far I have travelled this year, over the last five years. That time, is a spectrum of so many things, so many different shades of blue, of dark and of light. There have been good times, bad times, success and failures. I have been through all sorts, and that makes me who I am.
I might be a knight in dented armour,and holding a shield of rainbows with quiver of roses. But I am me, and I would not be anyone else.
Roses and rainbrows take time. Roses are prickly but pretty, they take time to establish and pay dividends. Rainbows come after a storm.
Both, are about hope.
I like hope.
I went to the allotment, thinking that I might be able to pull up the dead grass that has been lying around. That after yesterday, I might be able to continue, even if I did feel as though I had allotment ouchies all over the shop. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts and all over. It is however the sort of ouch you get from having exercised, and isn’t the flaming hot, cayenne pepper hot pain that comes from stress and anxiety. Off I went, and then I got distracted by the roses. Standing there and all pretty like.
I am very surprised by how strongly the roses have started off this year. In the space of ten days-perhaps less-I have collected three differently sized bouquets. I love my roses; they are low maintenance in my view, and yield a wonderful harvest without my having to fuss over them. I do feed them from time to time-when I remember-but otherwise, I then to coo over them, and enjoy them as cut flowers.
There have been many instances where I have described the beautiful zingy fresh lemon smell that wafts around the top part of the plot. That is probably the closest, human, verbose way of describing it, other than heavenly and ineffable. On the plot, there are thirty something rose bushes, making the one half resemble a rose garden. When the glads get going, there are is a riot of colour across the plot that breaks up the green. I feel that they are pretty, and whilst not edible, they have a wonderful aesthetic value as cut flowers. Each and every time that I take a bouquet home, I do wonder just how much they would have cost had I bought them. These are not diddy bouquets, and the roses are not the perfect Disn*y beauty and the beast sort. Some are dainty, others are fuzzy, fluffy and sprawl all over.
Alas, the bank holiday ends; I got soaked through and need a cuppa. Several, I think. I was glad really, to have had a good day on the plot yesterday. There is still stuff to do, grass to be cleared and seeds to be sown directly; will get to that all eventually. For now, I am going to get a cuppa, and try to choose which colouring book that I want to play with.
You can also find the video here.
It is the Whitsun Bank holiday, the end of May Bank holiday, and this means planting out. The tomatoes and squashes that have been hardening off the last week or so have now been moved to the plot and plugged in. There are two varieties of tomatoes, roma and marmande, and a quite a few different varieties squashes. I think I have most of the courgettes and marrows, with Mum having butternuts and trailing ones. All of the plants are in raised beds as I have had more success this way. There is also a raised bed that has incredible sweetcorn with squashes nestled amongst it.
Aside from the tomatoes and squashes, I had bought some chard and spinach. These were plugged into the open ground, and it was a case of “Punam, plant your chard in straight rows.” Well, the rows are a bit wonky, and there also some wiry leeks placed into the ground as well.
Beyond this, I have also broken with tradition and direct sown runner beans and climbing french beans. Ordinarily, I would try to sow them at home and in modules. However, this year the at home germination rate has been dire. This therefore is something of an experiment, with seeds being sunk into the soil which in some places is rather heavy clay.
I would have direct some further chard and spinach-I have some chard, that in true trekkie fashion, is Vulcan chard-and would look pretty and be rather useful.
This is the first time that I am planting and sowing chard and spinach on the plot. I realise that these are going to need a lot watering; without being watered, and if they get too hot, the plants wilt and will also bolt. I am concerned about this, especially as Mama F has been known to leave minutes after having had breakfast to go water her spinach and chard. I had thought that these were simple, something tells me that this isn’t quite the case!
Tomorrow, is another day and the plan is to continue with the plot. There are beds to be cleared and weeds to be pulled up. The vulcan chard remains to be sown, and this will be the next thing to be done.