Category Archives: Taking stock

A time for reflection and renewal

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised that there has not been much by way of gardening go on. A bit ironic, I guess, when that is a primary function of the blog, the brand and all things Petal.

The last year has been different, compared to previous years. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have found it challenging to shoe horn lots and lots of things in to real life. There have been peaks and there have been troughs; sometimes, that is what you need. There have been many times where there has simply not been enough of me to go around,

I miss the allotment.

At this moment in time, I dread to think what state it is in, A major overhaul is needed, and this is something that I feel very keenly and it is very much part of my process. I have paid the rent of the coming year, and a potato order has been placed. What I need to do, is to go there and see what I can make a re-start on.

This does feel overwhelming; the plot is 200 square metres and over run with weeds and all sorts. There is disrepair, the poly tunnel is still in pieces.  I am loathe to see the tuts and shakes of the heads that might happen from other plot holders. I’ve never aimed for gold standard, I’ve always aimed for what makes me happy, and that is what I need to remember. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day; the allotment wasn’t developed in a day. It’s going to take more than a day to strip things back, and have a relatively blank canvas to work upon.

Over the last few weeks, I have had chillies on  my mind. More specifically, having compost to germinate seeds in during the Christmas holidays. Christmas isn’t that far away, and sowing chillies in the depths of winter is not as odd as it sounds.

There are no plans to give up the allotment. No plans to walk away. There are plans to reclaim it; to take walk down there with a cup of tea and just take a look. Assess, where I can go from here and how I can return to the passed glories if you like, of the allotment.

2018 promises to be an interesting year on all fronts. This means that I will need the allotment as my space even more. I have certainly missed it over the last year and have felt the impact of not being there.

There has been a physical and mental impact and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There truly is something about having fresh dirt beneath your fingernails. An important aspect of being a trainee counsellor and indeed part of the BACP ethical framework is self care. For years, my self care was the allotment. This has somewhat lapsed, so I am doubly minded to get things going again.

 

There is the allotment, knitting, colouring, preserving and pottering; all of the things that I once used and have lapsed with I would like to resume. There is also writing too. At the moment, I am looking at Petal’s cookbook. Looking at Petal’s cookbook is really important, as it’s all plot orientated and will help get things going again. Nurturing the book and nurturing the plot do feel as though they go hand in hand.  Talking of hands, I get to see which nail varnish is allotment proof.

I do need to re-vamp my seed collection; a major cull and over haul is needed. Some of my seeds have been knocking around since I first started and are no longer viable. Raised beds need looking at, and I want to look at putting raised beds across the whole plot. I know for a fact, that cultivating things there in open ground really doesn’t.

At this stage, this does all seem overwhelming. The arrival of autumn, the dark depths of winter will do that you, will do that to anyone. I will be taking a walk soon, and reclaiming the plot.

 

 

Next writing project

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At the start of this year, I had a list. A list of books to write. This list got re-arranged and the Peace Novella Series bloomed and blossomed to take shape.  That project is very near a final completion; my novella is now on pre-order and will come to fruition mid-January.

This means that I can now resume ruminating on my to-do list. I have spent the last two weeks looking at notebooks and folders, trying to conjure up things. It is painful, when you sit there for forty minutes looking at your handwriting and you can’t see a single solitary thing in your minds eye.

What is the use, if you just can’t? What if in that particular set of pages, that universe isn’t materialising?

There is no point in defying the laws of physics and trying to make something out of nothing. Especially, when I already have something that is started.

Eleven months ago, I stashed away the idea of writing another gardening/cookbook. It didn’t feel right, there was nothing in the tank.  I couldn’t settle on what to do and how; I wasn’t sure as to what I could offer and whether it was of any use.

Then I drove to work this morning.

I had Maroon5’s Red Pill Blues on shuffle.

I remembered this folder, this idea.

Coming home, I had to go find it, and flick through. I felt zinging, I was trying to smile. There was half a plan all those months ago.

Time to let it roll.

Season’s end: A reflective review #gdnbloggers

2017 started with chaos and carnage. My poly tunnel fell victim to unseasonably strong gusts and was rendered kaput. Still hasn’t been fixed.

In real life, I was one third of the way through the first year of a level four counselling diploma, there had been a family bereavement and this combined with a self imposed writing/publishing deadline and increased hours at work.

There were a lot of variables that all combined and made going to the allotment more challenging. This has not felt like a productive year; this has felt like a duff year, with nothing quite coming off as it should.

I did sow seeds, these became seedlings and I split them all with my mum for her plot. It all however felt very cumbersome, as though the universe and I were embroiled in some kind of psychological and physiological tug of war that defied the laws of physics to make time turn to grains of sand.

There simply wasn’t enough time or me to go around. I was focusing on the diploma and it’s process of transformation-still going, now in the second year-writing was and in there someplace, there are projects in the pipeline, some more immediate than others, I have decided not load my writing plate. Then there is the real job, the teaching job that I do three days a week; this ebbs, flows and keeps me going in a straight line.

What I have missed, what my brain and body have needed but not had, is the allotment. And Zumba, but this is another story.

Somewhere in there, is my allotment. My little piece of England, my eden, my demi paradise.

It doesn’t look so pretty, now does it?

If you’d been neglected, unloved and not had your potential actualised, I daresay that is what you might look like.

Over the summer, I did get asked, ‘Punam, what you doing, do you want me strimmer?’

As you might remember, I spent summer doing nothing. I was feeling very spent, as though my figurative lego bricks had been smashed to smithereens and I was trying to put myself back together again. I am still trying to do that!

tngbridge

I am trying to resume course in the Captain’s chair to be in charge of my own figurative starship.

This includes the allotment.

At the moment, it looks awful; completely and utter derelict, it’s not in the best shape. I guess that reflects me, and the experience that I have had over the last nine months.

I haven’t been listening to myself as much as I should have, and this summer was about resting and taking the best care of myself that I could. My actualising tendency had been battered, bruised and broken in some part. The allotment is choking with bindweed, the raised beds need tidying up and the whole allotment needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

A lot like me, I guess.

The allotment is sizeable, 200 sq metres. It’s got its own micro-cosm, does what it wants, prefers to be negotiated with rather than told what it should do; it has a thing about experimenting, trying it’s best and doing what it can do, rather than what it can’t. It would rather have a go, learn it’s lessons and move on to do what makes it happy.

Remind you of anyone?

As the seasons change, and autumn arrives, my thoughts are still about rest, rejuvenation, about taking stock. In the autumn and winter, we have the natural cycle of things bearing fruit to then reaching the natural end. The allotment may not have done much this year, but it is now time for it to rest and recuperate. I have lots of tidying to do, and with foliage dying back, perhaps that will be easier to do.

That 200 sq metres does look intimidating. I do feel an overwhelming urge of ‘how the flip do I tidy you up, where am I meant to start, and do I have enough hours for you?’

I’m not giving it up, that’s for sure. I have no plans to walk about from this allotment plot. What I need to do, reconfigure things. Take one corner at a time, do one job at a time.

There is no rush.

Well, there might be, when the allotment secretary sends me a warning. He’s been pretty nice about it so far, given how there was some productivity.

There won’t be any breakage of the laws of physics; that never helped anyone, not Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek Captains or Buffy and Angel.

We’ll get there.

Hopefully.

 

Pudding prep

 

There is quite a stash of fruit in the freezer, waiting to be used up. For the most part, I plan to jam or jelly. However, over the last few weeks I have been harvesting raspberries every other day and stowing them away. The plan had been to be jam them. However, when it was announced that work would be hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, and that colleagues were invited to bake, I thought about what I might do to support the event. I was racking my brain for a while. It is not usual for me to experiment, make a bake and inflict in on my colleagues.

There have been crumbles and cakes made using allotment produce that have shared in the work kitchen. Depending on what it is, the bake doesn’t last long. The quickest to go and recently was a bakewell containing some home made jam. I remember putting it down, and coming back one hour later.

A handful of crumbs was all that was left behind. I have never seen a pudding move so fast, and stood there a little perplexed as to how and why.

I quite enjoy baking, I find it quite therapeutic; in most cases, I make a bake for home, and a second is taken to work. That doesn’t mean I’m a proper baker, I enjoy making mistakes and things, rather than showstoppers.

So with Macmillan Coffee morning 2017, it seemed quite straight forward to volunteer something. I just couldn’t think of what I might make.

Only, for youngest sister to look at me, and say cheesecake. “Make that cheesecake,” she said, “The baked one, you’ve not made on in a while. That was nice.”

If in doubt, ask your sister.

I haven’t made the baked cheesecake in a while, no, and it was nice. I think I have made a couple previously; one was with blueberries, another with strawberries, all the fruit was from the shop.

Now I have my own fruit; blueberries have come and gone, strawberries are not my thing, those raspberries have now got an opportunity to actualise their potential. They are going into Ms.Farmah’s baked raspberry cheesecake. I just need to find some white chocolate to go with it.

There is another reason why I wanted to support the event. Regular readers will be aware that two years ago, as a family we experienced the loss of my Maternal grandfather. Without the support of palliative care staff, his final days may have been even more difficult. Plus. he rather liked my allotment, and one of my fondest memories is Nana visiting. He would then ask what I had growing and what I planned to do with it all. So when I said my last goodbyes to him, I may have sent him off with a packet of sunflower and cabbage seeds. it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

So this year’s raspberries are not just raspberries. I have just harvested what might be the last batch to freeze.

Here’s to pudding.

 

Eight years on #gdnbloggers

petalcoastercard

Eight years ago, I was coming to the end of my initial teacher training; the PGCE was over and I was looking to the future. I had also started to do an experiment.

During that final summer time, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive. I had no idea whether I would make it through the course, my morale was very low and I wondered whether the vocation that I felt was just a whisper on the wind that I had misunderstood. For some daft reason, I threw aside the applications for NQT posts having been sat in the garden trying to fill them in in the sunshine. I took the bus to the High street, went into Wilko’s and came out with seeds and pots.

I really fancied sowing those seeds, and how difficult could it be to sow a tomato, a chilli and why not throw a runner bean into a pot. See what happens. A few weeks later, I was in a gardening store, and I saw a crate of onion and shallot sets. There were far too many for me, so I sunk some into the garden-my parent’s garden-and gave away the rest to a neighbour.

Watching seedlings come through-the summer of 2009 was freakishly warm-and then having chillies and tomatoes growing lusciously and then cropping, was something of a marvel to behold.

As the summer drew to end, my sweet peppers were damp but productive; something had clicked, changed; I found that I rather enjoyed sowing seeds, watching them grow, and you know, those four courgettes a week did come rather handy in Mum’s kitchen. I thought about expanding the science experiment-that is in essence what it was-and to be fair, Dad was thought there were a lot of plastics pots lining his garden.

I knew that there were allotments in the area, the neighbour who I had palmed off onions too, he told me about them. Off I went to a search engine to investigate.

What he didn’t tell me, and it was only after I called the allotment secretary as listed on the local authority information, that I found that the onion neighbour were the one and the same. I know, daftness. I put my name on the list, I wanted an allotment.

 

 

I had already been documenting my seeds sowing; by writing things down, I used another website. Horticultural Hobbit was born, there was a growing-literally-body of work. I even asked a good friend of mine, to give the name a face, give the name a face. He took one look at me, and came up with the figure holding carrots. The figure that we now know as Petal. I was adamant. that this would be my alter ego, that the allotment in the shadow of the Shire Country park and Sarehole mill would be a good record of my growing adventures.

By November, I was renting half an allotment plot. This was now about allotment adventures.  It took two weeks to clear it, and to get cracking. There was half a plan-sketched out-as to what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve. This was going to be anything but easy.

Put quite simply, I didn’t have a clue. What I was doing, how I planned to do it, was a bit of a haze. What I did next was to join an online forum, I had questions needed answers. This was by far one the best things I could have ever done. To have joined a community of like minded people, from whom I could learn,  use as a sounding board and also pass on the benefits of my mistakes.

What followed was growth, development and further scientific enquiry.

Growth. Development and a journey. A journey, that is on going and to this day.

There have been peaks and there have been troughs. That’s a lot of tomatoes, more courgettes that you can shake a stick at. There have been weeds galore-current, state of play, by the way-and storm damage, sometimes not enough time in the life space continuum; everything has ebbed and flowed.

 

 

It is impossible for me sum up in this post every triumph and disaster, every seed sown and harvest made. Plus you can find it all in the archives. All in all, a journey is documented and is shared.

Sowing seeds and then writing about it has had benefits that I could not have possibly for seen. I remain a teacher, although my jobs have varied since that summer of 2009. There have been a few posts, where I have been able to use gardening to support students; at one point, I grew chillies in a classroom. The plan is to continue with the vocation.  I have become a trained listener, started to train as a counsellor, as the impact of gardening on my own mental health has encouraged me to consider how the mental health of others could be supported. In particular, work carried out with veterans, mental health and gardening really struck a cord and led to the development of the Pledge for Warriors.

Then there was the writing outside of the blog. I was able to write guest blogs with the support of Michael Perry and this tipped something of a balance.  I felt that this was really positive step forward and helped to move within the blogging and gardening community. Plus, there was the whole ‘bollywood gardener’ hashtag, I couldn’t tell you how that came about, but I am grateful for Michael coining it and I am keeping it! Plus, I remember swooning and almost keeling over when termed as being gardening royalty…that is a dream that I will continue to keep a hold of as motivation to persevere.

I am still trying to be a part of that community, but what this did was edge me towards writing a book. I looked at the guest blogs that I had written, and had a gut reaction. Two years ago, in something of a haze I sent my youngest sister a text message; I was going to write a gardening book based upon the blog.

“Okay, good luck,” she said. “Do what you want.”

I did.

There was definitely a haze, and I did write that book. I wrote two. Now, they might not be Pulitzers, and you won’t find them on The Times 100 Best seller lists any time soon. But they are my books, and I am very glad to have written them both. They are not perfect, I don’t pretend to be perfect in anyway; I have however, learned from the processes and there is further development, dare I say it, growth. Writing the two gardening books led me to the Indie authors community and has set me onto another, additional pathway. A pathway towards fiction, towards writing in another direction.  I wrote ‘Fragment’s and that couldn’t have been more different to Plant pot tales and so grow eat. This writing journey continues, and there is a release scheduled Spring 2018. As for a return to gardening books, maybe; there are plans.

allrangetwo

Then there was the swag, the merchandise that the figure holding carrots-Petal-was emblazoned upon. Petal, who gave her name to Petal’s Potted Preserve, and was far more than the Orticultural Obbit; far more than just my alter ego. There have been lots of bits and pieces-through trial and error-that have been developed, shared and have actually gone to loving homes. A good sign, I guess, of how much this blog, the process of gardening and growth has changed as there is now also a Petal shop.

Petal is something that I believe in, that I enjoy developing. She is a brand. A brand that is diverse, growing and hoping to get bigger, better and stronger. There are many different facets to Petal, the Orticultural Obbit and her Potted Preserve. To date, I have have uncovered just a few. The plan remains to keep searching, to keep growing and developing.

It truly has been an interesting eight years.

 

Summer of 2017: Pause in Play #gdnbloggers

As I sit here, I have Adele singing ‘set fire to the rain’ on loop in my ear phones. This is the summer  of 2017, and I am having a rest.  I’m not very good at having a rest; school and counselling training form a big chunk of my life, then there is the allotment, writing and occasionally I go on adventures. So when school ended about two weeks ago, I took the conscious decision to not fill my diary.  This is time for a full stop.

From August 2016 until now, there has been a lot going on. Work has been busy, there have been lots of students; I have spent my working days, prepping, marking, teaching; doing my day job to the best of my ability. Alongside that, I have also been at night school and undertaking a two-year level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic counselling.  That’s two fairly big plates and spinning all the time.  I had forgotten just how demanding a degree-level course was, and it has been ten years since I got my Psychology degree from Aston University. Training to be a counsellor and a being a  Psychology teacher are at two different ends of a spectrum

Anyway. The first year of the diploma ended in July, but school continued for a bit. When it did, I wasn’t going to go around spinning plates this summer.  I was and am, going to try and have some down time.

Whilst the plot hasn’t had the best year, it has had some therapeutic value over the summer.

For example, the growing stash of homebrew. I didn’t think that I would do much homebrewing or any other preserving for that matter. Only for blackberries to catch me by surprise and appear abundantly on the allotment. I have made blackberry wine before, I made some last year and added plums and currants. This year’s experiment is purely blackberries with some cinnamon and star anise thrown in.  I had been given some plums by a plot neighbour, and only today the must made from them has been transferred into a demi-john.

I have seen lots of fellow allotmenteers start to worry about blight warnings. This can be awfully demoralising, and when you have been working hard to maintain a crop, it’s awful to see it decimated. There are less than half a dozen plants on my plot, but I have harvested lots of green of tomatoes. I think that we currently have all of one red marmande tomato! I wasn’t too convinced by the crop of Roma tomatoes. I do believe however, that there was just something not right about this year’s growing season, least f all because of my own reduced productivity.  The tomatoes that have  been harvested have been used alongside apples and fenugreek to make a green tomato chutney.  There has been less playing with the preserving pan, and to return to that was actually really nice. I have yet to make jam, though Mama F and her sister did borrow my kit to make some blackberry jam. Making Jams, jellies and chutneys is actually really nice; it is a form of mindfulness, I guess, but more on that later! The batch of chutney now needs some time to mature and mellow; hopefully, it will find loving homes.

A bit delayed, but better than never; we  have glads! Appearing a lot like Roman candles, they have burst into bloom all over the plot in a riot of colour.  I don’t dig them out, and let them be. May be, once I have cleared the plot, I might consider sinking some more next year. It never ceases to amaze me, how colourful or abundant they are. They also attract  a lot of fuzzy bottomed bumbles, so having them on the plot for them is doubly useful.

All that any would be suitor needs to worry about, is investing in Diamonds; I can grow my own beautiful flowers, and petrol station flowers are never crossing my palms.  So may be just by my bulbs and things, that would work yes? You’ll have do your own weeding, mind.

 

I started off, saying that I was having a rest; that there were no adventures planned. In some part, that is true. I am very fortunate to be within a stone’s throw of Sarehole Mill. Something of a landmark and a beauty spot, the mill is said to have inspired J.R.R.Tolkien. Whilst I am not a real hobbit-the last that I checked-taking a walk down to the mill was something of an adventure. I’m glad that I did, that I wandered around by the Mill Pool-the mill still works-and even sat in the tearoom with a cuppa and tea cake. There was something magnetic about the place, and no wonder that Tolkien was inspired by it.

I had taken my notebook with me, thinking that I might sit there and write. I ended up taking pictures so that I could write about it later; I could imagine a protagonist stood musing his existence whilst looking at the mill pool. I made a note on the ‘to write’ list, and have plans to write when my brain feels like it. You can’t see it very well in the photo sadly, but there is actually a veggie patch outside mill. I remember seeing raspberry canes and rhubarb; there is all an apple espalier that overhangs a door. I’m not the only would be ‘obbit, that likes gardening.

Having a rest, will hopefully give both my brain and my soul a rest. There are no concrete plans per se as to what I shall do over the summer.

I have re-discovered my colouring books, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this. I must have sat there for hours, with my pencils, fineliners and fibre tips just not thinking, but just colouring. I cannot describe the sensation, but it does feel as though you are floating away as you feel your attention span loosen out and become aware of your breathing, your heart rate;  all occurs whilst your mind empties.

As a well as colouring, there are books to write and to read.

In terms of writing, there are three, no wait, four separate notebooks/folders waiting to be looked at. But no mojo. Whilst colouring completely empties the mind, writing requires that it is full and with all sorts; for me, the day dreams have to be in full techi-colour and able to flow through my inky pens. It is only when my pens have a mind of their own, that I am able to write, commit things to paper. I don’t type and write. I write it all out in notebooks, it feels a more soulful in analogue rather than doing it via digital.

Having nothing to write, makes trying to rest a little difficult. You, I know that I, feel as though I should be doing something. Trouble is, the impetus, the drive is not there. Waiting for it to come back, the ideas to come back, is a trifle disarming. It is also unpredictable, and I have no idea when it will come back. I don’t want to call this a ‘writer’s block’, not in the least. There is no congestion-as it were-no back up, that needs a wiggle, or a flick to let it pour. Just no material to set a spark to, that oxygen might then fuel.

I can’t write anything at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. In the last two years, I have written three books, and have another scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Whatever happens next, is the next phase, the next chapter; what will be, will be. I don’t want to force it; I am great believer in things-creative things-happening organically, spontaneously, to make your soul zing and may even a smile appearing on your face. I am going to sit on those four books, and let them appear when they are ready. Trust, me, when they turn up, make themselves known, I will tell you.

I’m not writing anything, so I will read. I am currently two thirds of the way through the Malbry Cycle by Joanne Harris.  Alongside that, I have the Hannibal Quadrology, written by another Harris.  I have only made a small dent in ‘Red Dragon’. Now both of the Harrises have written anthems for my doomed youth. I read ‘Blackberry Wine’ and three out of the four Hannibal novels during my A-levels. At 33, I am having a literary renaissance by making my way through Ms.Harris’s back catalogue and taking on Hannibal once again. Then I have lots of other random stuff-George Eliot, Virgina Woolf, Gustave Flaubert and lots and lots of historical fiction-on the ereader to also look at. There is no shortage of works to read.

I need to read, I want to read; as with colouring, with gardening, it’s time to submerge my soul into what makes it zing.

waltonscarecrow

Last but not least, my thanks to waltons! They very kindly sent my Spike and Drusilla the scarecrows.  There was never any doubt in my mind as to what they would be named.

Right, colouring, reading, watching Bones, Angel, Buffy or Star trek….all options on doing nothing…..

 

Mint Marauding and Mooli Pods #gdnbloggers

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.

pods1

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.

 

 

Blackcurrant, blooms, bogey and bindweed #gdnbloggers

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.

Every pixel is perfect

bluesky

“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.

Flip me.

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.

Sort of.

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?

Obliteration.

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.

floraltruggladrose2016

 

 

 

Have Hope not Hate

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I’ve been turning this post over in my head for the last few days; trying to get the words together and say what I want to say.

Like many, I awoke on Tuesday morning and turned on the news. What I read on the ticker tape, what I heard made me rather sad. It also made me angry, scared and as though I wanted to cry and into my breakfast.

The sadness that I felt; it was as though someone had sat a great big block of ice on my stomach. The last time that I had felt that way, Britain had gone to the polls and made a once in a generation decision. This, had nothing to do with a ballot box. This was about beautiful people, enjoying beautiful music and doing what gave their life colour.

I am not about to go into politics here; that is not what the blog is about.

I had my breakfast, I had my mint chutney on toast. Grabbed my coat, my handbag. I got in to my car.

Ordinarily, I will turn the key and I will have Maroon5 or Adele blaring out from George’s speakers. The bass will only just kick in, and I will sing all the way to school and the city of peace and reconciliation.

I didn’t do that on Tuesday.

Trying to remember the frequency for Radio 5, I pressed scan. I could not bring myself to listen to music; it seemed the most uncomfortable thing to do. Instead, I listened to the shocked sounding Nicki Campbell, and tried to get a better picture and some clarity.

I wanted to cry, and how I didn’t as I drove, I do not know.

Having got to work, and parked up, I sent messages to friends and family with young children. If they could hug their kids for me, from their Aunty, their Massi and Bhua; they bring colour to my world, and I couldn’t imagine my rainbows without them.

I could not imagine what the mums, dads, family and friends of those in Manchester would be going through.

Even going to school, talking to colleagues, it was heavy. There was a horrible, grey, leaden fugue and life seemed to be suspended.  The world of rainbows had become grey.

I saw my students in a new light; they are all the same age as some of those who would have been out that evening. I could not imagine walking into my lesson and not seeing them there.  They make my job what it is, and they are why I teach.

As well as being sad, I was angry. Children, young people, music;  they make the world a brighter, more colourful and loving place. For them not to exist, infuriates me.

It is only days since the event-I’m not even sure what to call it, the words are abrasive-and everything is still very raw, immediate, the world is still trying to process things.

Over the last day or so, I have seen things about yellow and bees. Above, you will see a sunflower that once grew on the plot, there is a bumble bee rather enjoying it. Yellow, is the colour of hope. Bees feature heavily in the life of Manchester, so the image seems apt.

Hope, was also the last thing to be found in Pandora’s box. A tiny voice, making itself known; asking not to be forgotten.

When all else is lost, it seems daft to do away with Hope.

Hope is powerful. It is courage, being steadfast, and having resilience.

Above all, it is motivation to heal, to love and see the brightness in a world where it seems only darkness, chaos and carnage reign.

To have hope is to believe.

To believe is to have strength.