Category Archives: Taking stock

The Icelandic Adventure April 2018

This is by far my biggest adventure to date. I went to Iceland. Generally, I am very fortunate to have wing-people. Be it siblings or friends. This, this was very different. I did this by myself, much to the amusement of some. Why there, it’s so far away; do you know how cold it is there, Punam?

An amazing CPD opportunity arose, where by I could meet fellow Psychology teachers from across Europe. This was a conference that happens every two years, and I rather fancied making an adventure of it. It’s not that I don’t adventure alone, I do. Just not so close to the Arctic circle.

I’m glad that I did. Iceland is beautiful, Reykjavik is phenomenal. I also met some fabulous like-minded individuals. The camaraderie within the teaching fraternity really is second to none. If you are a Psychology teacher, go find the ATP and also EFPTA; you won’t be let down.

There was a bit walking on this trip, in doing the Golden circle tour. The double waterfall was one of the most soul-tingling experiences ever. I stood there, really quite mesmerised. There a couple of geysers, one big, one small. I will never, ever, complain about rain here in Britain. Icelandic rain comes down in King-size sheets and does more than drench you. Thank goodness, for a Birmingham Blue-coloured hat that Mama F had crocheted for me.  I stood between two tectonic plates, walked passed the dunking pool of unmarried mothers. That was really quite sad and eerie.

The secret lagoon. What do I say? An experience beyond words. It makes me smile as I sit here writing about it. Must have been what two, three degrees, but stepping into that water. That was something beyond magic, I tell you.

This was by far the trip of a life time. Scared the living daylights out of me, whilst giving me butterflies, but I did it. I was very lucky, to have met up with friends and colleagues; this did do something to help me get rid of the nerves.

I did have some sadness too. I actually looked at the coach seat next to me, and there wasn’t a sibling or someone significant there to elbow. That is another story, I  guess.

A year of dresses

 

This year, has  been a year of dressing up. I don’t think I ever had so many different outfits. Then again, I had fairly good reasons for wearing them.

In April I dusted off, arguably what will always be my favourite sari. It’s Imperial, Cadbury purple and always make me smile. It is also swooshes fabulously on a dance floor when busting a move to Bon Jovi.

Then came the annual international conference of the Association of Teachers of Psychology in July. Every year, I have a think about the dresses for conference, for the gala dinner amongst everything. It is always a great event, dressing up is part of the excitement. I clearly have a thing about vintage inspired swing dresses, so purple was factored in. The came the gala dinner. This was different. I actually wore an Indian outfit, and liked it.

And blimey, it’s been an Indian outfit summer. The weather certainly helped with a massive, Bollywood wedding. A family event that was nearly a year in the planning. With it came the outfits.  Quite a few outfits.

So let’s put this into context.

I’ve never done that before. Having these outfits for the wedding, was a big deal. From not being silver-I’ve been going grey since 16, I’m mid thirties now-so having to go back to being raven haired, to wearing outfits that only exist in movies. Outfits that tall, beautiful, model types wear.

I woke up at half two to  have my hair and make up done. Looked in the mirror at six, nearly scared myself. That woman in the photos, she really doesn’t look like me.

‘Wow, you look different.’

‘Punam, that you? I almost didn’t recognise you.’

That, that is a big point.

I don’t do glamour. I don’t do hair, make up, eyelashes and swooshing skirts.

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But for that day, I felt like a princess. I was still me beneath it all, that’s for certain.

I am not what you see in the Indian bridal mags. That’s an uncomfortable thought, when the world around us is based up on physical appearance. What we look like, is what we get judged on.

Three days after the wedding, I had a massive hair cut. I’ve not coloured my hair since either. I actually got ID’d when my hair was black. It’s been a struggle, trying to defend why I don’t dye my hair. There is sadness too, what with the ID’ing; to look that bit younger. Having silver hair as woman, is viewed as being negative. For a man, not really a problem.

Being me whilst wearing all those of outfits has been incredibly important and still is.

 

From seed to six years #gdnbloggers

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floral trug with fruit and roses

 

Six years. WordPress tells me that I’ve been writing this blog for six years. If this blog was a human, it has probably started school already and hopefully made some friends.

The whole idea of sharing started well before that, in a slightly different place with a slightly different aim. Slightly different in the way it was organised, and how I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. However, here I am; here is the blog.

A lot has been covered in that six years. There have been highs, lows, lots of things in  between that have made blogging and the writing process wonderfully human.

This blog  was quite literally founded on the seeds of an idea; a gist of which you can find on the About page. I do feel it is important to reflect upon where this blog started, what has been experienced and subsequently where it might go in the future. I do feel that it is evolving and over time things may change.

Highs, there have been a few. Gluts, for one. After three, four, five courgettes, what’s a girl to do? There have been pickles, preserves, the Petal Plonk experiments that will be really very interesting to comeback to. All in all, I’ve cultivated a piece of land that was unloved for a very long time. It was nearly five foot high with weeds when I first took it on. In it’s present state, the allotment does look rather sorry but it has already gone through a great deal. There have been glorious summers, where there has been lots fruit, vegetables, lots of glads, sunflowers and roses. There has been a lot of abundance. There have been both physical and mental benefits too. All in all, the impact of the allotment is very much holistic.

The lows experienced have always been hard to process, to understand but there has always been potential for learning and forward movement. I don’t think I will ever forger the broken cold frame and destroyed polytunnel. Those two things, were like being punched in the gut-my heart tore straight down the middle. Then there is the heavy clay that has meant raised beds. Raised beds that I built myself, much to my Dad’s amusement. I pinched his cross-head screwdriver and got blisters. He then picked up his drill to make sure everything was secure.  There are of course Human factors such as work, family, time and energy.  This year, I have felt those a great deal. At times, I have put so much on my plate, the allotment has felt very far away. Wheeling Mama F down there in a wheel chair during her post spinal surgery recovery was one of the most surreal things ever. She missed going to my allotment. She has since got her own and loves it.

The gardening, blogging and lots of other communities have been instrumental in helping. You’ll notice the Garden bloggers hashtag in the title; this is more than a homage. It is an acknowledgement of their support, their forum as well as the vibrancy and diversity.  I am always surprised by how far the gardening and blogging community stretches and therefore where the blog gets read. I am touched somewhat, that 200 square metres in the middle of England can reach so far a field. There is a pun in there somewhere. At the outset, I relied a great deal on online forums, and this is something that I will not forget.

My own journey behind the blog has been woven in at times. Teaching and counselling training have impacted a great deal on how this blog, how the allotment has developed. There has been writing too. I must admit, that at times there has been a sway towards the writing projects on the blog. That has felt as though it was a big move away, but I stand by that this blog is what triggered that. If it wasn’t for this blog, there’d be no green or yellow books. Therefore, the writing is an extension of this blog; that goes for both the fiction and non-fiction. This blog, the ideas and learning are the umbrella for what I have produced. So my profuse apologies, if you do feel that I have betrayed my green-fingered roots. I have genuinely struggled with whether or not things are so divergent. I like to think of this as configurations, different aspects of me, the blog and everything in between.

It is then only natural to think of the diversification and The Petal’s Potted Preserve Umbrella. There is a lot that goes on here.  The essence of the the blog, a shop front amongst other things, an umbrella of gardening, writing, adventuring, mental health and Psychology.

As for future growth, I have no idea. I give up on making plans!! I am thinking about forward movement, of getting things going. That does in part mean looking back to see who far things have come. I have missed writing about my allotment. Sat here, I have set aside a meaty big bit of Counselling diploma work to write this. I will do it, albeit when my mind feels like it. I do have writing projects, and I am learning how to marry those into things. These are bubbling away on the other hob and will no doubt filter into the blog writing.

So, I have a list of things to write  on here. I’d quite like to share things that I have experienced over the last year, there’s some gardening stuff that I’d like revisit. I have very much a forward looking view, and that makes me hopeful.

Stand by, I guess.

To resume a love affair #gdnbloggers

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To my dearest allotment, my wonderful blog and my alter ego, Petal.

I miss you, I would like to fall in love with you again. Shall we give this another go?

As I come to the end of 2018, I look back at an eventful year. There have been adventures, a level four counselling course and one big massive Bollywood Wedding. The Punam Farmah universe has been going through huge changes.

Oh, and two books too.

So I haven’t been around as much as I could have been My brain has been full, my body stretched and my soul has been spread horribly thin. I think I have also displaced my smile and my purposeful James Bond walk. This has been painful and then some.

Quite simply, I have lost my bounce and my flow.

Two things, that I would like to get back. Two things that the plot, the blog and Petal have always given in abundace.

I should go down the plot. (I hate the word should). Given the storm currently bashing Blighty, I know it will all be a mess. There is no colour, only chaos and this pains me greatly. The once or twice that I have been there, it has felt as though I was feeling devestation. The whole thing looks ravaged and that hurts me.

How could I have let something so beautiful, so well made and cherished slip away?

Last Christmas, I planted chilli seeds. These failed, something didn’t feel right. Perhaps I knew on an intuitive level that this year wasn’t going to my year. That there wouldn’t be enough of me to use the plot.

The allotment, the blog, Petal all make me happy. I have bored so many people senseless with the tales from the alloment. Handed over jars of preserves, and then there is the Petal Plonk. I swear Gardening appears in all the books in one shape or form.

So I need to resume my love affair. Or at least flirt with the idea of having another crack at things. Admittedly, I have said this so many times this year and not acted. I guess the universe didn’t want me to.

Right now, the wind is blowing. There are big fat storm clouds. I am reminded, that big fat rain clouds will burst. Contained within their silver lining is rain, that washes things away. The droplets nourish arid earth and let greenary bloom. The rain might get caught in the sunhsine. Light splits, you get rainbows.

Every grey cloud has a silver lining.

The new year will soon be upon us. The start of another 12 months with a whole lot of potential, a whole lot of growth.

Plus, if I can get up Glastonbury Tor and then down again, I can probably do this.

So, to resume the love affair.

A time to flirt, with the seeds of an idea.

 

And if you wondered about the Big, Bollywood Wedding….

….it wasn’t mine.

 

 

 

Kangana: Light after dark

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A month ago, I was starting to pace up and down.  Book number five was lined up to go live. My fifth book in four years, there was a lot of anticipation hanging in the air. There was fear, anxiety, but also some level of excitement too.

Of all the books, Kangana makes me smile, and I am only just starting to figure out why.

Kagana is my ray of sunshine, rainbow book. A book that signals a change in me, my mind-set and subsequently my writing mojo.

It marks the end of what has felt a jumbled up, chaotic time. A time during which my life has gone through all sorts; there’s been growth, development, sadness, joy, not to mention lots of interesting adventures. The last five years have been wonderfully formative, giving rise to five very different books. Five. I still don’t know how that happened.

Previously, I have noted that writing about gardening was some of a multi-layered metaphor; this blog, has evolved and grown from the seeds of an idea and continues to do. Writing two gardening books, was much about my growth and development as much as it was about my allotment.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I made the leap into writing fiction, writing stories that couldn’t be more removed from roses, mud and raspberries. I remember the moment when; mid morning, tapping my pen-a green biro-against lined paper. I had an idea.

The genesis of Fragments came from grief, bereavement; it is not an easy, soft, all is rosy book. Fragments is a whirling tornado of emotions, humanity, tears and pain. Don’t get me wrong. In the same way that every grey cloud has a silver lining, so does Fragments.

Fragments is  a book about getting up again having fallen down; about dusting yourself off and moving on. It is a book about finding strength, even when don’t think you have any. This is a book that shook me sideways, and at a time when I was feeling broken; this was my way of finding out my depths and layers.

When Fragments went live, I remember feeling wounded. I’d written this book, eighty something thousand words, and it hurt. I had this massive great big hole, as though something had been wrenched out of me. Absolute internal pain, and it throbbed. I remember feeling as though I had been kicked in the stomach.

What the flip was a girl to do?

Well, she waited four weeks and decided to go find the Peace Novella series.

You’ve heard a lot about RTP-that’s Retreating To Peace. I feel bad writing this,  but Devan Coultrie was definitely a band-aid. A sticky plaster to fix into place what ever Fragments had done.

RTP is a romance, yes; a contemporary romance. It’s not fluffy though, Devan and I both had dents. So we both fixed them, together. I rebelled, I wasn’t willingly going to write a fluffy romance. I still couldn’t find it in my soul to do so.  I remember asking my fellow Peace writers to read it, but wincing in anticipation.

I’ve never been so scared to let anyone look at my work. (Team Farmah never get a look in, honest) I sat there, with the handwritten manuscript pressed to my chest. I didn’t want anyone to read my romance novella and then beat me with it. I struggled with the concept that all romance novellas were full of bow-chick-wow-wow that defied the laws of Physics. Full of bodice ripping country squires and doe-eyed damsels.

But I took stock, received positive feedback. I prized the manuscript from my chest, and did a really funny happy dance. The ladies of the Peace Novella series , picked me off the floor to dust me off. I stood up, held my head high.

Then I bit the bloody bullet.

Off went RTP, released into the ether and unto the masses.

There was something very nice, warm and fuzzy about having written RTP. Devan Coultrie was a lovely, faith-restoring band-aid, and I am most certainly not done with him.

The ladies of Peace, were sent to my universe for a reason.

Anyways.

I took the summer off, decided that I was I need of a break. Both Fragments and RTP had changed my head space, and now there was a scope for sunshine after the rain.

Taking a walk to Sarehole mill with my sister, I let the greenery of Middle earth talk to me. That was August. I went home, wrote three thousand words, then put my notebook away. I was not in the mood to do any more writing.

Autumn and winter passed. I got busy, and there were too many things happening for me to be creative. One Saturday, I sat with my soft pastels and decide to make rainbows. Three were created in varying configurations. Rainbows had been very much on my mind, especially with counselling therapy. I even had a set of oil paints and tried to paint one with the EMS as a reference.  In my mind, rainbows demonstrate the power of the universe. Light after dark, hopefulness. The way that light bends with water to give the different wavelengths. It makes great scientific sense, but its wonderfully magic.

Putting aside the pastel creations. I went looking for my notebook. I looked at the three thousand words and knew that one character from Fragments was my next venture.

That character was Gorbind; a bit part character that had a sliver in a chapter. You could literally blink and miss him.  As with Devan Coultrie, Gorbind was borne out of a lack of Indian romance books. This continues to annoy me, so perhaps I can do something about it.

I was writing yet another romance.

Romance.

Kangana was now being forged;  I had a chapter list, a sequence of events and also a playlist.  I had  also more than once visited Birmingham’s Museum and Art gallery, where seeing the Lucifer sculpture and Rosetti’s Porsepine fueled my imagination further.

For the next ten months, my poor parents heard Dr.Zeus’ Kagna-two versions-, Hallelujah-three different versions of that-, Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla, not to mention Cyndi Lauper’s ‘At last’ on loop. This made a huge change from Jolene, two thirds of Adele’s back catalogue and all of Maroon 5’s as used in RTP and Fragments. I do have to say though; for some daft reason, halleleujah has occured for all three fiction books.

Kangana has made me laugh, it has made me smirk. It has also made me think of Gianluigi Buffon in a whole new light.

Why?

Well, most of my main characters have faces as I write them. Gorbind was the esteemed Mr. Buffon. Devan Coultrie, was Aidan turner. In Fragments, Jamie Dornan inspired Christopher and Adelphi. One day, all the rest will have faces. Albert Finney, is Grandad Albie.

Kangana is a lighter book. It does have its dark bits. All rainbows do. Kangana is a book that marks a change; it’s a book that marks a movement forward into a different direction.

No idea what that direction is. There is a stack of writing projects sat on my desk.

Two have been pulled out for development. The one, is labelled Hades. Yes, him of the underworld. The other is identified as Aurelia and involves vampires.

That is all I have for now. I have no further details as my mojo is at rest until Spring. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be planning and gleaning the universe for inspiration in the mean time.

All in all, this means a break from intense hot-housing and slowing down to regenerate. For now, I am going to bask in a rainbow and colour my soul.

Go grab your copies, try to do the same.

 

 

Petal’s books: Plant pot tales-Happy Birthday!

 

Three years ago on this very day, Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment was released unto the ether. I had written and published my first book.

After a summer of rough ideas, and having said to my youngest sister, that I would write a book; I actually did it.

Plant pot tales was and is an extension of this blog. I used this blog to record all the lessons learned and experiences had. To put them into book was the next step. I had been encouraged by the success of Rob Smith on The Allotment Challenge, I was also invited by Michael Perry the illustrious Mr.Plantgeek to guest write some blog posts. The whole creative process was something of a swirling tornado.

This week, after two years of all sorts, I am trying to go back to the plot. Go back to the plot that this whole gardening and writing process came from. This post, the book anniversary, the return is therefore extremely poignant.

Plant pot tales was borne out of passion, creativity, out of doing something that makes me really happy; doing something with which I truly have a very meaningful relationship. The plot, gardening, writing have all become a big part of who I am, how I see myself and in turn how others see me. Plant pot tales was the keystone to the genesis of Petal’s Potted Preserve as an entity, identity and as umbrella for all things me.

It may not be perfect, but I am very proud of Plant pot tales. I put my heart, soul and green fingers into it, and tried to the best job I knew how to at the time. This was a book that allowed me to enter into the world of indie and self publishing. This, was the start of an interesting and evolving journey. A journey of creativity, self-discovery; a journey of exploring the universe and what I might be capable of.

That yellow book has a lot to answer for!

I learned valuable lessons with plant pot tales. These lessons were about both gardening and writing/publishing. I really wouldn’t change Plant Pot Tales for the world, it is a reminder of where I started and how far my journey has gone so far.

For me, this is not a traditional gardening book. I’ve not written a book about having a perfect garden, but a book that that reflects upon mistakes and uses them as learning experiences. I didn’t want to write a book that took on the mantle of an expert and passed judgement. My process is to continue learning and making judgements can be down right hurtful. Plant pot tales is about potential and positivity; about how having the seeds of an idea can lead to something truly epic.

As Plant Pot Tales turns three, I hope that it finds new readers. I hope that people come back to it, having already invested. I hope that this book continues to be useful and earns its place out there.

It was the first book, and I’m not done yet.

Petal’s books: A retrospective review

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As the release date for the fifth book approaches, I am in something of a reflective mood. I am trying to consider, think back upon how things have moved on since I first decided to sow seeds, to write a blog and then make the move to writing books. All of which, comes under the umbrella of this blog, of Petal’s Potted Preserve as an entity.

All of the books can trace their lineage to this blog; writing here about the allotment is what inspired me to dip into another medium. I wanted to transfer what I was doing here to another way of recording, sharing and communicating.  Sharing was the key aspect; how far could my relationship with my allotment go, who might it reach, who might it help, might they learn from it?

I am and always will be a bookworm; there is something purely magic about a book. I feel that is true for most books. Be it fiction, non-fiction, be it a textbook; there is a beauty within it.

The mere thought of a library, makes me smile. I have yet to be part of one, but a girl can dream, yes?

A lot has happened since the yellow book went public. The yellow book; playing with plant pots, turns three in two days. I’ll post about that later.

Since plant pot tales was published, my job has changed. There have been two significant bereavements, I’ve trained to be a counsellor, and there has been an epic, really close family wedding. My life has been a constantly developing, evolving process and experience. All of which has meant I’ve dipped in and out of maintaining my allotment whilst also writing.

As parallel processes, gardening and writing both involve sowing a seed, crafting and nurturing, whilst exposing your soul whilst putting your heart into something that believe in. There is a lot vulnerability too, in going out on a limb. I don’t think I have tried to follow the rules on my allotment. I didn’t write a traditional gardening book; none, of my books are traditional.

Plant pot tales, is very much an extension of the blog. I have yet to identify the voice I use in that book. Read it out aloud, and you may just hear my paved-over Birmingham accent. It is me having a chat, telling you what I have recorded in the blog. There are recipes that carry the scent from Mama F’s kitchen. The book is a living experience, organic; it quite literally is the seeds of an idea.  It is also imperfect. A baptism, of not knowing what to do, how to do it and learning as I went along. Least of all in a gardening sense. This was my entry into the world of Indie Publishing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I took a punt writing it, putting it out there. In having a conversation with my youngest sister, declaring that I would write an e-book about my allotment, see what happens as I had nothing to lose; I took a huge leap of faith, and couldn’t tell you if it was brave or stupid. I don’t know if I had courage. I just did it, and did my best whilst in the heady, green-fingered throes of determination.

I wouldn’t have done it differently, I wouldn’t turn back the clock. Plant pot tales was the first. It was the herald, the pre-cursor to an interesting journey.

It was six months before the arrival of the next one. I simply couldn’t sit still; there was still something in the tank, and it wanted out. The allotment had been abundant, there were courgettes all over the shop. I’d also starting making jams, jellies and spirit infusions. These were documented on the blog, but still needed to travel. I’d caught the bug, I wanted to write again.

And so the green book came to life.

After which, things become a little blurry.

There was a gap of nothingness from April til December.

From January 2016, I was locked into something altogether surreal, The blue-coloured book didn’t arrive until March 2017 but I was writing over the year. This was a furious state of productivity; I had to write, get things out, get them onto paper in black and white. There been two very close bereavements, a lot of unsettled-ness and I was embarking in Counselling training. Loss, bereavement, grief, the circles of life were crashing and colliding.

That book was Fragments. Book number three, my first foray into fiction.

There’s a lot of pain in that book; there is joy too, it’s not entirely bleak. I saw smudges of hope and light when writing, that echoes in the pages of the book. This was never going to be a happy, fluffy book. This is a book that seeps with the human condition. It is my attempt, I guess, to grapple with something that we as humans avoid. We avoid talking about grief, bereavement; the end of life.

Here I was, making it public.

As with it’s two predecessors, the book also has power. The power to reach readers, to be a part of their process, inform and assimilate into how they experience the world around them. I like to think, that people read my work and take something from it. One of friends and colleagues made a comment. “Punam, you must have had an interesting life to write a book like that.” I took that as a compliment, and continue to make life interesting.

With Fragments out, I must have sat still for all of two weeks. Fragments had been a year of working hard, and for it to be over; there was a loss. There was a pain, a detachment from something that I had become invested in, something that had more or less governed each and every waking moment. I had an emptiness at having spilled my guts out. It physically hurt to have Fragments out there; as though it had been hoiked out from the depths of my soul. I had made something really important.

What I needed to do at that point, was to heal. I needed to mend. I needed to stretch my writing muscles.

I needed a giggle. Something to feel me with a light, maybe switch it on, help me extend. Something that felt hopeful and carried light.

Along came the Peace Novella series. I had nothing to lose, a lot to gain.

Creating Devan Coultrie was a huge, experimental shot in the dark. I was amongst seasoned writers, well established in the world of romance. Romance, a whole genre that I really didn’t know a lot about; a whole genre, congested with stories and with it’s own rules and regulations.

I struggled with the idea of a happily ever after. Thankfully, a happy for now would work. I struggled with there being few characters of Indian-ascent in romance novellas. I struggled with colliding and combining British and Indian traits. I was throwing all sorts at this book, and not knowing where all the chips would land was beyond unnerving.  I still can’t tell you how I did it. How I managed to write a piece of romantic fiction.

So much so, I wrote another.

I wrote book five. This, is me having another go.

By the 3rd of September, I will have self-published 5 books. Each one has my name on it. I always look at the covers, a bit surprised to see my name.

To have published one, was exhilarating. Two, helped me find a sense of purpose. Three, was a call from the universe, an attempt to put myself together; see my scars, dents and appreciate what makes me who I am. Four, was an experiment.

No idea what Five is, just yet.

When I know, so will you.

Taking stock

 

For the first time in what feels like forever, I went to the allotment. I decided to delay today’s writing session and take a walk to the plot.

There were lots of currants to be harvested. I didn’t want to let them rot, feed the birds or just go to waste.

Truth be told, I needed to go get grounded. Life has been very busy, and there is no let up yet. The rest of 2018 is scheduled to be busy still until at least September-ish.

The allotment has been on pause for a long time, and going there today hammered home how badly it has all fallen down. I could have got lost in the weeds, everything is very over grown, brambles are very much in charge.

It does sadden me, that I can no longer see the raised beds and that the whole thing is over grown. Especially, as it’s take years to get it how it was wanted. What I didn’t bank on was life getting in the way. There’s been a training course and strange working hours; not to mention writing as well. It’s nine years since I first started sowing seeds, and I do feel that I’ve come a long way.

It’s painful really, knowing that the plot has been neglected.  Painful, as to how overwhelming it feels to get it back into shape. I’m not sure where to start or how for that matter. I know it won’t be immediate, so plan to take a good, long look at things at the end of summer.

Being told but allotment secretary that you are probably going to get a letter is not fun! I definitely don’t want that. It’s a horrible sword of Damocles hanging over your head, and I really don’t want that letter. I’ve just seen him, and it’s rather changed my mood. It’s a horrible feeling being told that your plot is the worst that is has been, that it’s in need of being tidied up. It is a judgement, after all and maintenance of standards; that I understand. I do have a responsibility to look after my plot and ensure that it is productive. I have felt this for a long time actually, and it’s almost as though I am beating myself up about it. Gardening has never been about that for me, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling as though I am letting people and myself down. I will probably sulk for a bit anyway. It does hurt, and it’s never nice to get negative feedback. In it’s current state, the plot is not something to be shared, enjoyed or celebrated.

As life settles down, I will need to take stock and start hacking away at the overgrown allotment. That’s probably the only way that I am going to win against the brambles. I just can’t do it yet. This probably feels huge as I try to juggle bits and pieces.  I need to get the headspace and life events sorted before I can return to the plot.

All in all, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. I want to return to the plot when I can, when I have the time and energy. It is not something that I want to abandon. That would be awful, and I can’t bring myself to do that.

 

 

I like football #WeAreFemaleFans

 

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I like football a lot. However, in the last two weeks something really important has become really apparent.

Despite the upsurge in Women’s football after the World cup and increased coverage of Women’s games, women liking the sport is still something of a sticky wicket.

Two articles have caught my attention. The most recent this morning and both from the BBC.

The  first discusses how the in-progress World Cup has notes of Sexualisation. The second, talks about Female Fans.

My reaction to the first, was very much a gut reaction. In my day job, I teach feminism, I work with female students who have unequal access to areas where their male counterparts get a free pass. Football is actually a big part of my teaching. It get shoe-horned into every bit of Psychology, Sociology and Business that I can.

My hackles were raised full mast; how dare people pass a camera over anyone, yes anyone, and comment on their appearance. This happens every day, regardless of it being a footballing fiesta. This goes back to good old fashioned gender politics and socialisation. This is a manifestation of social norms and cultural practices that belong in the dark ages. Funny, since football has been around since then. The views about Women and football do rather belong in the cave ages.

I was incensed, about the comments made about female pundits and commentators. They, like their male counterparts, have skills, knowledge and understanding, practical awareness of the game.

They, know the same offside rule, as a male pundit would.

They too have played football.

Yet, they really don’t know their stuff?

The mind boggles.

Mansplaining has raised it’s ugly head. A concept that is surreal but frightening. Something can’t be true, valid or acceptable if someone with ovaries says the same. Have an XY set of chromosome is the kicker. One day, I do hope someone says “I did just flippin’ well tell you.”

The second article is far more striking for me. Here we have everyday women, of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, orientations; women, who have more than just a passing interest in football.

These women are just like me. That is what I think is important.

Two weeks ago, I filled in the work football sweepstake for the group stages. Handed over my quid, sat at the table in the staff room. Found my pen; I systematically went through the fixtures. What do I know about France, their turbulent history? The Spanish have sacked their coach, will this reflect in a disjointed team movement. Where are Portugal? Will Iceland trip people up? Hold on, Argentina, Uruguay, will they play samba football or something. No way, no how will the Germans have an early bath.

I took this very seriously!

My footballing education started with Euro 96, it has it’s uses.

So much so.

When the results were being ‘analysed’:

“Punam, you might actually be winning. You’re quite close really….”

(I didn’t win. But I did try. Due to some strange football during the latter half of the group stages, I got kiboshed. The teacher in me wanted to know the final tally, and tutted loudly.)

What all the fluky results, I might have gone into a full scale monologue about how squad formations with empirical statements and historical evidence. (“Right, you’re a defender on the back foot. If you have a great big massive, stocky striker headed towards you, powered by a midfield engine with a full scale attack. You have two options; get pummelled or move out the way. I wouldn’t get in Maradona’s way, would you?”)

“Punam, I have never heard a lady analyse football so well.”

I may have shaken my head, walked off with that second one.

On the other hand:

“Punam, it’s really refreshing to hear a woman speak about football like you do.”

(Lovely. That, we like. That, was genuine, accepting and really encouraging.)

Raising three daughters, Pops has never ever refused us football. Youngest sister was actually a nifty player when a teenager, and Dad would talk tactics with her all the time. The only time I ever asked him what he meant, I had no idea what a heavy pitch was.

(There’s too much water, and they should have cut the grass….)

My key point, is that gender has never been in issue. As a family, we all enjoy football. Mum spends a week complaining about the noise, and by semi-final time she’s picked the opposite team to everyone else.

I will continue to talk a good game; I can’t play for toffee.

With the knockout stages looming, I need to go find a cushion behind which I can watch penalties.

Might even go find my England shirt…

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

redwellingtons

 

And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

plot2018

Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.