Happy 4th Birthday!

 

plantpottales

 

This summer sees Plant Pot Tales turn four.

Four years have passed since I whimsically said to my baby sister, “I’m going to write a book, about my allotment. It’ll be an e-book, but yes.”

She was encouraging, told me to go for it. So I did. So, started my journey as a writer. As such, I knew nothing. This wasn’t just a book, it was the start on going, developmental journey. This blog was the launch pad; I wanted to go beyond, write something that was real, a bit more three-dimensional.

I wanted to write a book!

Grabbing my pen, a notebook, I went about writing a plan. At that stage, I’d also written some guest blogs and so these were incorporated; I had things to write and shape. I felt good about it, I was genuinely excited. I still knew nothing, nothing about doing things properly when it came to writing and publishing. I knew nothing, about being an Indie author, and was about to take a massive great big swan dive into a very, very big pond.

I knew nothing about gardening either, well beyond my 200 sq metres of allotment. Okay, so the blog was my record, my repository and diary.  I also had-I still do- a fabulous group of gardening friends and family who helped me on my growing experience. I set out to write something of a gardening book, something of a cook-book. It also had to be honest; this was not going to be a fluffy book either.

(I’ve yet to write a fluffy book; I’m not sure I will ever, write a fluffy book).

And don’t call me or my writing, sentimental.

(That’s a whole other debate, and centres on the words of V.S.Naipaul.)

Mostly, I was winging it. I will in hindsight, plead blind ignorance. From the editing, the pictures, the formatting. Every thing was done as it came.

This book is not perfect, and I like it that way. Okay, so I’m still developing a thicker skin for all of my writing, but this was the first bit of my soul to be made public. It is flawed, there are mistakes all over shop. But I am proud of my mistakes, they make me who I am, who I might be and inform this on going journey.

I’ve cried over this book. I cried when I held the book in my hands, I cried over the reviews. That, is part and parcel of putting your soul out there. It is part and parcel, of being vulnerable and at risk of criticism. It is part and parcel of people passing judgement on others.

I’ve grown to respect the reviews-they are phenomenally important as an Indie Author. I won’t strong-arm, chase people down for them; but I do appreciate them. Each and every one, brings with it warm and fuzzies. It’s a surreal experience, the fact that someone is actually reading what you have written. Even more so, when they come at you with a copy. I once signed a copy during breakfast, whilst adventuring in Iceland for a conference.

I still haven’t got my head around promoting my books, blowing my own trumpet and adding bells and whistles to things. With every book, what gets me, is my name on the front. That, is what gets me every.time.

Writing and publishing Plant pot tales was a risk. I took a chance, didn’t think about feeling stupid, and I’m not sure I recognised my bravery. I don’t see my bravery, it takes me a good six to eight months to do that for most of the things that I do. With plant pot tales, it took writing another book-the green one-to make sure I hadn’t fluked things. What I was bracing for, and I guess I still am, is the risk and return of failure. I don’t remember thinking about failure-how’s that for bravado! It came to me after, once the book was out there, about Christmas time, and I had a bit of a ‘oh, Feck’ moment.

Most people don’t want a one star review. I think, I firmly believe, that it is out there. It just hasn’t found me yet. I’ve seen the two star ones; they’re on goodreads! I have two options when that one star turns up. One, cry-I probably will, I will probably rage, to be honest. Two, acknowledge it, accept that it is perspective of another, and that’s all there is to it.

The key with the latter, is not internalise and wipe out the courage that it took to take a chance. It’s an ‘Oh feck’ moment,  an ‘okay, so it tanked with you, but where do I go from there’ kind of thing. It’s a very much an acceptance and acknowledgement, that things may go to the wall from time to time, but that doesn’t define things. With that comes resilience; the ability to bounce back. Resilience, builds capacity. Capacity, builds motion. Motion facilitates growth and development.

All this, from a book.

(Not that I am encouraging you, dear reader, to go formulate and post that one star review…)

Plant pot tales is my first, it was the starting pistol to other books. Currently, there are aix of them in total, at the last count. Perhaps, I have lost sight of it; lost sight of where this journey started. With the book coming up for it’s fourth birthday, I’m trying to accept and acknowledge it’s importance. It is deserving, worthy of being held on the same par as the other five, promoted and shared. What I am getting at, is that I don’t want to forget plant pot tales. There is a real danger of me doing that, as my writing journey continues. I’ve gone from blogging, writing about gardening, through grief, to writing contemporary romance. I’m yet to pin down a niche, a genre, so the diversity is really important. In five, ten years time, I want to be able to wave plant pot tales around and say, look! I wrote about gardening, it’s also a cookbook.

On the 17th August, I’ll remember Plant pots fondly. I’ll remember that I did something completely out of the ordinary, and that I liked it. I will understand and accept that it is something to be proud of, something to share and it is out there. Plant pot tales has a place in the universe and I put it there.

Happy Birthday, Plant Pot Tales!

Chilli abundance

 

Us humans might not have enjoyed the recent heatwave, but the chillies certainly have.

This year has been a big year for me, when it comes to my chilli plants. For one, I actually have some! After such a long time away from meaningful growing. I did sow and grow some plants. There are less than a dozen, but these are tall, bushy and as you can see abundant!

It would appear that this is the most successful season for chillies; far exceeding the six that I managed to grow in the hot, heady days of 2009. That was the year I started experimenting with seeds and started my GYO journey. I’ve not had much success since then when it comes to good cropping chillies.

With the warm weather, I’ve been picking chillies twice a week. The most that I’ve picked has been about a dozen. If you think about it, that many would cost you about a quid in the supermarket. These are the most complex variety; this are rather straight forward cayennnes. It’s a big deal for me, to have an abundant crop and to be able to enjoy the fruits. My sister’s been given some, her mother-in-law too; Mama F’s using them as they come for bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Above all, this experience has been rather revitalising. I’ve really enjoyed fussing over my chilli plants and making sure that they are looked after. Especially as there are only tomatoes and soft fruit on the plot. I need to develop a better routine for the plot, to get more of the soft fruit harvested.

There is a joy in having vibrant, happy chilli plants. I do hope they keep going for a while. I’ve never over-wintered them, and the latest I get a crop is September. I will continue to nurture them; they’ve certainly nurtured me.

 

Roses; First Flush

 

It’s definitely summer; the rain has been coming down in sheets and for days. On the allotment, the tomatoes that I planted out are having something of a sulk. However, the gladioli that were sunk, are starting to shoot through. I still have fifty or so to sink, so that’s an action point.

And the other plot blooms are starting to kick off as well. For me, summer on the allotment is framed by the bloom and blossom of roses. There are well over a dozen bushes on the plot, and these have been developing over the course of years. Roses do not grow on quickly, they take time to establish. As such, I’ve had mine for some time, and summer always feel incomplete when they aren’t abundant. Abundant they will be if there is enough rain, heat and light to keep them going. Over the last week, there’s certainly been a lot of rain, which was prefaced by really quite glorious warmth and sunshine.

As you can see, I have harvested the first bouquet of the year. Compared to this time last year, this is really quite something. There was a distinct lack of roses last year, so I am somewhat buoyed to have bouquet of this size and quality. I don’t actually know what any of these are called; these are all lost label roses. There are those who have a small, neat bush-rose quality, as well as those that are sprawling, scrambler type roses. I know one of them is called Golden Showers, as these features in the middle of the plot by William Shakespeare 2000.

I’m not a stickler for perfection. All of these roses are unique, and I tend to cut them once they’ve been on the bush for a few days. Some rose bushes do tend to be more abundant than others, and I guess regular cutting is a bit like dead-heading.  Beyond that, I don’t fuss over my roses. It really has been a case of plug in play. Don’t be fooled though. As pretty as these things are, they have the most vicious thorns known to man, with some main stems as thick as your thumb. There were a couple of bushes that had been storm-damaged with main-stems snapped off. These were tidied up and staked with canes.

From time to time, I do think how much these rose bouquets might be worth in terms of pounds and pence. In terms of universal force and beauty, they are of course priceless; there is no value to how much they colour soul or demonstrate the power of the universe. These are home-grown, in the middle of the England; they’ve not been flown in or coddled to an inch of their lives. These don’t have air miles, so are unlikely cost half a kidney, I guess.

One of the biggest day-dreams that I have, is that if I ever get married, I’d like to take my allotment roses as bouquet. That does depend on A) getting married, and B) the event being in summer, well up to October. I guess a girl can dream!

I might have got a bit wet whilst going to harvest the roses…

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I’ve dried off now; I really did get a bit soggy. There’s a book waiting to be read, and the tail-end of Poldark Season 4 to watch. Writing still feels a little distant right now, but the pens are tingling. So you never know!

Planting out and potting up

There has been a change in the universal energies! I’ve been getting my hands dirty on the plot as the month of May gives way to June. It’s all change on a few fronts, so I’ve made some attempt to return to my happy place. It really is a happy place, I feel different, so I’m trying to go with it. There are now nineteen tomato plants in situ on the allotment. Most of these are home sown and grown. Fourteen of them, are mine with a fair few shop bought. I’ve bought another six today, to fill things out a little more. If there is one thing that gets grown this year, its most likely going to be tomatoes.

From what I remember, I’ve sown red, yellow and black tomatoes. I didn’t label them, so it’s  all very tomato roulette when plugging them in. There are two shop varieties which are yellow, with no idea what the ones I’ve bought today are. All of the plants have been sunk into raised beds, each with its varying soil level. It has, after all, been nearly two years since I did any ‘meaningful’ growing on the allotment.  Over the course of two days, tomatoes have been transplanted, watered and fed. This week, the temperatures have increased and growing has accelerated. The crucial thing to maintain now is to make sure that these are watered regularly.

Tomatoes will grow quickly, given the right conditions. When nourished, they will crop abundantly. I’d quite like a few tomatoes, if I’m honest. Such a number, might actually yield some! Watering should keep me going to the allotment; should keep me focused and attentive in making the plot productive. The fact that I want to go there, do things and enjoy doing so, is incredibly important.

The allotment is gaining momentum, but there are still plants at home.  At home, there is a small but select group of chillies. All of these are now in their final pots, with the last few potted up. There are ten pots altogether, with Cayennes and habaneros to be looked after. I’m trying to decide, if like with the tomatoes, I want to find some more partially mature chilli plants. The are a little spindly and wiry looking; however, once they’ve been fed and watered properly. they will hopefully start to fill out a little and gain some height as well.

Cayenne chillies will hit a stride as they get comfortable. I’ve experienced Habaneros as being slower growing; nothing unusual given the heat difference between these and cayennes. There have been chocolate habaneros before, but not many. There may only be a three or four plants, so we shall  what these amount to.

Summer: the season to read

 

Love, life, laughter

and all that is in between.

 

The days have become longer, the sun is shining-mostly!- and there is a chance for some downtime. Downtime makes for a cracking opportunity to catch up on reading. From the graphics above, you can see that there is something of a diverse range on offer. There are the two gardening books, one romance novella, a two novels and series of short stories.

With June and July, the growing season becomes apace. If you have more courgettes than you know what to do with, or really want to know about Aloo gobi-that’s spuds and cauliflower, then those are for you.

four

Retreating to Peace and Postcards from Peace are my contributions to the Peace Novella Series. A stable of different authors awaits if you fancy having a look at the rest of the series. With RTP, Devan Coultrie arrives in Montana with something of a broken heart. There is follow up in Postcards as we get another look into his life.

Fragments is a great big of six inter-related stories as it considers what happens when we lose the people- and animals-that shape our worlds. Kangana sees Gorbind-he appears in Fragments-have a no straight forward romance. There are also snatches of Birmingham, with Lucifer from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery making an appearance.

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All of the books are available on Kindle and in paperback.

You can clink on the sidebar,

or go to the Books page to get your copies!

 

And don’t just take my word for it.

Nurturing the return

For the last few weeks, I have been avoiding the allotment. I know why. It all feels rather overwhelming. There is still work to do, and the growing season should be off like a rocket. Today, I decided to take a walk; least of all because I needed to fish some pots and growing trays out of Mama F’s shed.

Going back to the allotment actually scares me. It’s a big space, all 200 square metres of it. Half of it is actually covered, and to all intents and purposes is on pause. That half really doesn’t worry me so much. The other half, has raised beds, fruit trees and is what I am trying to get back to what it was. Most of the raised beds are covered, there are three that need clearing before I can actually grow anything. There are three grapevines that need shoring up. They’ve started to lean because of the wind, and need to be propped up.

As it stands, a quarter has become a mass of raspberries. That’s not a problem. I like raspberries. These are however the autumn variety, with runners spreading around. I do have a pink variety; Polka, I think. I was going to look into getting some more pink ones, but I fear I am a little late to plant some. I hear that the Glen varieties are fairly good.

I’m glad that I went for the walk. I’m able to see that things are manageable. At the moment, I have a dozen or so tomato plants growing along at home. I would like to take these to the plot and plug them in. I would like to grow something this year, even if it is simply tomatoes. There are chillies; the cayennes and a couple of habaneros. These are likely to be cultivated at home. I might even rescue a few more chilli plants, I certainly plan to find additional tomatoes.

This might take time, and this year might not be overwhelming abundant. If the tomatoes come off, I would rather like to make some hot yellow sun chutney. Growing yellow tomatoes is rather interesting! There has been cherry blossom on the plot, these are starting to fruit. I also spotted some pears. Then there are the currants. These have strings and strings! Thing is, I always end up harvesting these during the height of the hay fever season. These are likely to be jammed or jellied, I think.

At a loss for words

saucemagnoliajapanesegarden

 

At this moment in time, I am at a loss for words.

Ordinarily, be it at work, when blogging,  writing; I could waffle. I daresay, I could probably waffle for England. The hitting of a payload, a torrent of words and inspiration, does tend to be hard to stop. I experience it as un-brookable sensation, my brain is aflame with my handwriting only just keeping up with the daydreams wanting exit my imagination.

Words tumble;the whole thing is a emotional, psychological cascade. A torrent of things that might not have even been in my consciousness. To this day, I can’t read bits of Fragments, I remember my own pain.

In stark contrast then, is the barrenness of not writing. The overwhelming swirling of tumbleweed and screeching carrion birds in a desert.

I do have a list. I have a stack, in fact, of notebooks; each one has a list of things to write for that particular creating. So it’s not as though I have a block, as though The Muse-whatever form that creature takes-and I have deserted each other. The Muse has done what needs to be done, and gone off to where ever they are needed.

It is the impetus, the bounce and flow, the mojo that has gone.

At this moment in time, it’s actually difficult to look a the books. The ‘to-write’ lists make no sense to me. They may as well be written in a different language.

I think I need a rest.  Life has, after all, been rather busy.  Six books, a Bollywood wedding, a diploma in therapeutic counselling are all going to have an effect. As is not being in a stable teaching post. I have done, experienced, been part of one hell of an adventure. It is impossible for me to negate any of that; it has made me the woman, the person, the author that I am.

The diploma is now over-Just waiting for the certificate!  I am also thinking, about what the next phase of the counselling journey might involve. No idea what is happening on the teaching front; the end of the summer, would mark ten years as an educator.

That in itself, is special. I want to make it that far! Teaching has also been a journey in it’s own right.

I do feel a loss; as though I should be doing something, However, there is that small voice. The tiniest squeak, that is saying no. Something isn’t right, something hangs in the air; writing is not what I want, need,to do at this moment in time.

This, is voice, that I need to listen to. I also need, somehow, to accept, that the writing is paused. This is horribly difficult, when it has been a part of me for such a long time. I’ve enjoyed it; writing really is a facet of me. The thought of writing rubbish-whatever that might be-also crossed my mind. It’s been dismissed a couple of time. I want to value what I write, I want it to have some importance.

Self-care is the big thing here. To look after myself, nourish the elements within that have become depleted.

Who knows. Perhaps the words will come back.

Eventually.

 

Inky and Instrumental

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When is a pen not just a pen? When it is capable of producing pure magic.

First thing first; years ago, teachers decided that my handwriting was terrible. I spent hours practising, and hated every minute of it. It felt almost unnatural to iron out the kinks and curves of my cursive handwriting. For years, I harboured a resentment. I like my handwriting, it helps to manifest everything that goes on inside my head.

For my twelfth birthday, Pops asked me what I wanted. I asked for a fountain pen. He looked at me as though this was really odd.

I got one though, a simple blue-barrelled one that he got from Smiths. I used it til it died an undignified death. I bought an assortment of Parker ones, mostly the Vector range and struggled to find a zing. This went on for some time.

Before long, I abandoned all hope of finding a pen of my own.

This is important, and if you’ve ever read or watched Harry Potter, you’ll know that a wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around.

And boy, did that happen.

I was in London one day, and walked passed The Pen Shop. I had time to kill, so I went in. There happened to be Parkers there, and I saw a shiny one. A shiny one, that happened to be in the Sonnet range. I asked to have a look, and was handed one.

Wham.

There might as well have been sparks. This was my pen, this was what I wanted to write with. Feeling all very overwhelmed, a bit shocked and surprised, I said thank you, walked off and was in something of daze. At that moment in time, I didn’t understand what had just happened. Off I sloped, and did some cyber-window shopping.

I wanted that pen.

By that time, I’d written Fragments, well two-thirds and in biro. I decided to find that pen. That book needed something special to finish it off; the book was a special, the final flourish had to be too.

Oh, I paced, I worried and I turned it over and over. My siblings couldn’t work out why I wanted that pen, biro did the job as far as they were concerned. Why on earth would I want a fountain pen, pay that much for it, and what was the big deal?

I got the pen. I had my Excalibur. This was my pen.

I had magic at my finger tips; the outlet that would get ideas from my brain, through the CNS and onto paper. I didn’t look back. I found a couple more; a bit like having  your favourite jumper in three different colours. I have three sonnets. I remember being in Venice and window shopping the Matte Black one. It didn’t feel right, it felt too heavy. I’ve even tried, out of sheer curiosity, to woman-handle a Mont Blanc. Too heavy. no zing; I didn’t even think about the price tag. I don’t think I am meant to have one of those.

Then came the IM. A slightly posher Parker pen, I guess. A random shot in the dark, but this also came with a zing. It’s a different zing to the Sonnet, but it’s a zing nonetheless. The two types of pen, sit on opposite sides of the pen case with a biro in the middle. A biro, to be used only in the case of an emergency.

All pens are to be inked up at all times.

I take no chances. I take those pens everywhere, alongside a notebook.

Then there is the ink. I don’t get on with cartridges. On my desk, is a wooden box beneath a stapler. It contains seven, small plastic bottles of ink. Imperial purple, grape, billbery, magenta, forest green and teal are used more often than not. I have Oxblood, but it doesn’t feel right; I really don’t like using that ink. There’s not black ink, blue does languish behind the box. This also means that I end up with inky fingers that are all too difficult to explain.

Everything of would-be note that passes across my desk is handwritten. The first draft of books always is, in a note book, on file paper. There is far more soul in this analogue, organic process compared to typing away.

Using a fountain pen certainly retains the kinks and curves of my handwriting.

As for reading it.

“Punam, your writing makes my eyes go funny.”

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