Category Archives: Personal

…And Plans

Photo One by Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) (Photo One)

Dear Readers, I like to think that I’m a well-organised person, but a trip to the garden centre is usually enough to see me coming home with something completely random that I’ve spotted. This week it was a winter honeysuckle shrub – I remember watching the bumblebees feeding on one in February last year, and so I decided that it would be a good addition to the garden. Now it just has to stop raining long enough for me to actually plant the poor thing.

I have also taken advantage of the Royal Horticultural Seed Scheme this year. Seeds are collected in the various RHS gardens, and you can send off for up to 15 packets for a mere £10 if you’re a member. There’s no way that I could use a whole 15 packets, but I shall be sharing my seeds around. I’ve got a nice combination of natives, such as cow parsley, honesty and wild carrot, and some rather more unusual plants.

Photo Two by CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107188

Honesty (Lunaria annua) (Photo Two)

Photo Three by Quartl, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Wild carrot (Daucus carota) (Photo Three)

One such unusual plant is  this Colour-changing Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana mutabilis), where the flowers start white but gradually change to pink.

Photo Four by scott.zona, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Colour-changing Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana mutabilis) (Photo Four)

And how about this Large Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)? It will be interesting to see how this does.

Photo Five by Florian Grossir, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Large Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) (Photo Five)

I seem to have also bought some Hairy Foxglove (Digitalis ciliata) seeds – this plant is smaller and more delicate than the Large Yellow Foxglove.  I see a lot of foxgloves in my future, especially as the ‘normal’ foxgloves that I planted last year have probably self-seeded all over the place. Clearly I need a country estate rather than a suburban back garden.

Photo Six by Don McCulley, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Hairy Foxglove (Digitalis ciliata) (Photo Six)

Ooh, and before I forget, I also have some seeds for this cyclamen (Cyclamen mirabile). I find that Cyclamen do ok in the garden, so I thought I’d have a bash at another species to complement the Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum that I already have.

Photo Seven by By Tejvan Pettinger - Cyclamen, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12226905

Cyclamen mirabile (Photo Seven)

Anyhow, I am fully expecting to have more seeds than I know what to do with, so I will be up to my ears in seed trays for the next few months. I will keep you posted on my progress, which has historically been rather hit and miss. My plan is to improve the shady, woodland part of the garden, which is lovely in spring but then rather sparse, so that will be my focus for 2022. Let’s see how I get on! And let me know if you have any particular plans for your garden/pots/house plants this year.

Photo Credits

Photo One by Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Two by CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107188

Photo Three by Quartl, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Four by scott.zona, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Five by Florian Grossir, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Six by Don McCulley, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Seven  By Tejvan Pettinger – Cyclamen, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12226905

A Pet Story

Dear Readers, when I was growing up we had a variety of pets – a cat called Fuzzy, a dog called Spock, and a blue budgie called Fella. Fella lived in a cage on the sideboard for the whole of his life – we feared that if we let him out, either one of the other pets would get him or we’d never be able to get him back. My Mum remembered another caged bird that had escaped and had been chased around the room to try to recapture him until he’d died of fright. So Fella was permanently incarcerated in a cage about the size of a small suitcase.

As a child, I don’t remember him seeming to be unhappy. He loved his millet, and would chirp away to himself. But now and again he would go into a frenzy, squawking and flapping his wings, as if remembering what it was to fly. Feathers and dried droppings would go in all directions, and this was usually a cue to change the sandpaper on the bottom of the cage and generally tidy him up.

Fella must have died, but I don’t recall when – he didn’t come with us when we moved house when I was fifteen, so it must have been before then. I do remember that as I’d grown up, I started to have an aversion to keeping birds in cages – it seemed such a sad and limited life, such an imposition. We had the chance to enjoy the bird, but they got to do so little of what they had evolved to do. What depth of frustration was behind Fella’s ‘mad half hours’ as we used to call them?

And I was reminded of this again when I read this article about wild budgerigars in Australia. After the droughts and bushfires of the past few years, there has been a bumper wet season, and the birds are gathering in flocks up to 100,000 strong to drink, feed, pair up and make nests in the old red gum trees that they rely on (budgies are cavity-nesters, so need dead wood to nest in).

Steve Pearce, the photographer, describes how the sheer number of birds causes the air pressure to change, and the ‘whoosh’ as they fly past.

Budgerigars at a water hole – photo by Steve Pearce

What a rich and varied life these small parrots must lead! Of course, there are risks from hawks and other predators, from climate change and habitat destruction, and yet I have an inkling that any caged bird would prefer to take their chances living as evolution has designed them to do.

Hawk and budgerigars – Photo by Steve Pearce

We yearn for contact with nature, and yet so often we want it on our terms. When I was older and had money of my own, I kept reptiles and amphibians for a while. Sadly, you learn how to care for these creatures, with their complex needs, by trial and error, and it didn’t take me long to realise that my error could easily result in the death of a lizard or a frog, and so I stopped. Plus, where did these animals come from? Some may have come from breeders who were more experienced in the ways of animal husbandry than me, but how many were illegally harvested from the wild?

I think there has been something of a shift in the whole idea of pet keeping – more people take on rescue cats and dogs, and people who keep other animals get better advice about what their pets need. And it isn’t about loving them – I loved Fella, and my reptiles, and it didn’t give them a better life, because I didn’t know how to, and I didn’t take the time to find out.  Our sense of entitlement about the natural world, the idea that it is here to serve us and that that is its only value, is at the root of so much of what is wrong, from climate change to factory farming to the abandonment of ‘lockdown pets’ now that people are going back to work. I applaud that so many more people are thinking about these questions, and are considering other ways to be in relationship with the natural world. A change of attitude can’t come soon enough.

Photo by Steve Pearce

And if you would like to actually see the budgerigar murmuration, head over to this link to see it all happening….

Farewell to Somerset (Again)

View of the sunset from our window at the Shrubbery Hotel

Dear Readers, I have already said goodbye to Somerset once, but here we are again, still sorting out my Aunt H’s house. A lifetime of 93 years gives ample opportunity to accumulate ‘stuff’, especially when you are interested in family history and local history and all matters church-related. And so we headed down to Broadway this morning to sort out the kitchen and to prepare for all the paperwork that will need to be signed tomorrow. While John went off to collect the keys, I had a chance for a walk around the garden. I would say a ‘final’ walk around the garden, but clearly that would leave a hostage to fortune.

The foliage on the shrub below is gradually turning scarlet, and there is a fine crop of berries, but what on earth is it? I would have said some kind of berberis, but those long fruits are confusing me somewhat. Let me know what you think, gardening people!

There has been a lot of judicious pruning in the garden and it’s looking in much better shape than it was.This Viburnum is in full flower and I could smell its sweet scent from ten feet away. What a boon to a winter garden this plant is! I wonder if I could squeeze one in.

Viburnum bodnantse

The white periwinkles have come back, having been strangled by the bramble. I love their pale, star-like flowers.

There is a fine Hawkshead fuchsia, another plant that I’ve been thinking about trying – in fact I might nick a cutting and see how it does. I’m sure Aunt H would have approved.

And the cyclamen are in flower. I love the way that they carpet the ground under the shrubs, to be replaced by the snowdrops and primroses and crocuses in the spring.

Whatever happens to the house, I doubt that the garden will be a priority for anyone – the garden is large, the cottage is small, and at the very least I imagine someone will want to extend. Even if they don’t they will probably want to change the garden into something else, as people always do. I hope that they give it a year so that they can see what’s already there, but folk are in such a hurry these days. It makes me think of what might happen to my resolutely idiosyncratic garden when we move, or when I die – no one with small children will want a massive pond, and I suspect that the days of the inconvenient whitebeam and the prickly hawthorn will be numbered too. But if this year has taught us anything it’s that the future is out of our control. Who knows what will happen? It’s certainly not worth worrying about.

As I go through Aunt H’s belongings I am struck by her frugality, and how much it chimes with the mood today – the desire to recycle, to reuse, to save things ‘for a rainy day’. There’s a jar full of bottle tops. There are plastic Stork margarine containers, used and reused over and over again to store soup and stews for freezing. I find jars of chutney from ten years ago, and boxes full of buttons. There’s much to learn from a generation that had to make things last and was reluctant to waste things. If we were all a bit more like Aunt H our beaches might not be full of plastic bottles and crisp packets and wet wipes. I’m pretty sure that Aunt H never utilised a wet wipe in her life, and if she had I have a suspicion that she’d have washed it and hung it out to dry somewhere.

Back in our hotel room, I watch the sun go down, and realise how rarely I allow myself to do such a thing. Tonight, the sun is painting the edge of the clouds with a light as sharp as one of Aunt H’s knives. She had knives for everything, most of them past their best, all of them kept in case they’d be needed again. It is hard, putting aside the remnants of a life. But our things are not us, though they sometimes tell our stories. Aunt H trod more gently on the earth than most of us, though she also trod on the toes of those who didn’t adhere to her standards of behaviour. Like all of us, she was complicated. She drove me to distraction on occasion, but I miss her, and so do many other people. She has left a hole in the village and church community that it will be very hard to fill.

And At The End

Dear Readers, it’s taken eighteen months, but on Saturday we finally said goodbye to my Dad, Thomas Reginald Palmer. We were blessed with one of those glorious days that Dorset does so well: soft sunlight on green fields, the glow of old stone, finches singing in the hedgerows and a great calm over everything.

The church had been dressed for the harvest festival, and the flowers looked as if they were illuminated from inside.

Dad’s sisters arrived and I showed them to the grave. I hadn’t seen them since the start of the lockdown, and I think for them Dad’s death hadn’t been real until they’d seen the headstone. I left them to spend some time with Dad on their own. How hard it is to lose someone of your own age, and because Dad had moved to Dorset they hadn’t been able to see him as much as they would have liked. But how much time is enough, when someone you love is gone?

The service itself went in the blink of an eye: I managed to deliver my eulogy with only a few tears, something that I don’t think I could have done if the service had been closer to Dad’s death. We listened to some Spanish guitar music, to ‘The Lark Ascending’, and to the Celtic Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
May the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

And then there was home-made cake and sandwiches, and a lot of memories shared. Lots of people came from the village and it was lovely to catch up with people’s lives. I wondered if this would be the last time that I’d come to Dorset – all the tasks related to Mum and Dad are now done – but Dorchester and Milborne St Andrew are so imbued with their spirit that I think I’ll still come to visit, to see my Dorset friends and to enjoy this beautiful part of the country.

Before we headed home, I walked out to the grave on my own to say goodbye, and God bless, to Mum and Dad. What remains for me, now, is an immense stillness, filled with sadness but also with so much love.

Thomas Reginald Palmer 5th December 1935 – 31st March 2020.

Getting Ready to Say Goodbye

Dear Readers, at the end of a long day in Dorset there is something so comforting about the chacking of rooks and jackdaws as they roost in the trees in  Dorchester. There are some venerable horse chestnuts and beech trees right in the centre of town, and these act as beacons for the corvids who fly in from all directions. When they land, they talk away to one another for a few minutes before falling eerily silent, as the sky turns from mother-of-pearl to sapphire. Their ancestors have probably been roosting round about here since before the Romans came. 

Earlier today I caught the bus back to Milborne St Andrew, where the service for Dad will be held tomorrow. I love sitting on the top deck of the bus and peering into the fields as we speed by. Today I noticed that three of the big fields on the outskirts of the village are now full of sunflowers. They must be a special variety grown for their seeds, because the heads are so huge that they hang shyly down, and the petals are insignificant. Is this for vegetable oil for human consumption, I wonder, or is it for biofuels? There’s a lot of maize around too, as noted yesterday, and I suspect that this isn’t because the people of Dorset have developed a taste for corn on the cob..

I meet up with a friend who is doing the cakes for the refreshments tomorrow – E made the beautiful cake for Mum and Dad’s 60th Wedding Anniversary Party, and although she is 88 years old she is up to her ears in coconut cake and lemon drizzle.

Cakes from Mum and Dad’s 60th Wedding Anniversary Party in 2017. Note the freesias!

Then we walk down to the church. It’s harvest festival on Sunday, and there are sunflowers everywhere,  proper ones this time. Fruit is piled on the window ledges and there’s a distinct smell of apples.

Outside, Mum and Dad’s grave is a little overgrown – my brother, who lives nearby, has been self-isolating after his family got Covid, one after another, until he got it too. But someone has some secateurs, and so it’s easy to neaten it up, and tomorrow E will bring some dahlias from her garden to brighten it up. I am reminded again of what a lovely village Milborne St Andrew is, and how lucky Mum and Dad were to live their final years in a real community.

By the time you read this, I will have given my eulogy, and the Memorial service will be over, and I’ll be back home. I will share how it went with you on Monday. It feels as if we’re coming to the end of one stage, and the beginning of another. It’s time to come together and to remember, grieve and celebrate.

Return to Dorchester

Dear Readers, I am back in Dorset for a few days for my Dad’s Memorial Service in MIlborne St Andrew. He died in March 2020 but apart from a brief visit for his interment a year ago, I haven’t been back. And so, today, I am almost overwhelmed with memories. Every shop, every restaurant, reminds me of when I was visiting every few weeks while Mum and Dad were in the nursing home. The walks through the fields were taken at Christmas, when Dad was still alive. I turn to the natural world to take me out of myself, to remind me that life goes on and that every thing is both beautiful and temporary. In fact, maybe the beauty comes from the transitory nature of things.

But first, I am delighted to see these two moggies asleep in one of the windows on the High Street.

And then, look at these sunflowers!

And I love these woodpigeons, up to their shoulders in meadow grass.

And there is a Himalayan Honeysuckle down by the old machinery that used to flood the meadows.

I am pleased to see that there are sheep out on the field.

And I didn’t even realise that I’d seen a heron as well until I got home and uploaded this photo.

There is some lords and ladies….

and the harts tongue fern looks glossy and somehow primeval.

I believe that this might be our old friend wild angelica, though I have to say that it hasn’t done as well as the one in my garden.

And then I was distracted by the snails…

The field that was pasture last year is now full of sweetcorn, though the magnificent oak trees don’t seem to mind.

So by now I’m starting to feel a little less distressed. On I go along the bridle path.

I am passed by three runners – apparently there’s a charity road race on on Saturday in aid of MacMillan Cancer nurses. But once they’ve passed, silence reigns. I spot a new plant – this is red bartsia, which is apparently partially parasitic on grass and has its very own bee species. I sense a Wednesday Weed coming on….

Red bartsia

And then there is a single patch of rosebay willowherb which is abuzz with common carder bees – these little ginger critters are amongst the last bumblebees on the wing.

And how about this henbit deadnettle, another new plant for me (though very common). The whole plant seems to be exploding with enthusiasm.

And then I turn for home, and pause by the sheep because something catches my eye.

The swallows are circling and diving, catching the insects that the sheep have disturbed, fuelling up for their long flight back to Africa. And it might sound strange, but it makes me weep because the year is turning, and the swallows are going home, and maybe Mum and Dad have gone home too, but they’ve left me behind. Grieving can be so lonely, and that’s why grieving collectively is so important, and why I sense that I’ll feel better once we’ve gathered to say goodbye to Dad properly.

Bon voyage, swallows. Travel well, until the world turns.again.

Feelin’ Good (Well, Better Anyway…)

‘Dwarf ‘ Buddleia

Dear Readers, apart from waking up in the night with a fever today I’ve actually had a pretty good day, so fingers crossed that it continues! Some of the highlights of today have been:

  • Trying to do a lateral flow test. Oh lord I am fed up with tickling my tonsils and poking things up my nose but as little children are doing that every day I’m happy to suck it up once in a while. But why did my test come back void when I’d done everything right? Very disappointing. I shall have another bash tomorrow, but as I’m on the mend I suspect that my viruses are waving goodbye to me as we speak. Let’s hope they’re not heading off to infect my husband or we’ll have a wonderful week off.
  • Look at the ‘dwarf’ Buddleia! I’d say it’s about nine feet tall. Everything seems to grow gigantic in my garden. It’s a beautiful colour, but the bees and butterflies much prefer the feral mauve one in the front garden.

  • I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the Olympics, but I have been most taken with Simone Biles, the US athlete, who spoke out  vigorously when one of the coaches was convicted of sexually assaulting the girls. She isn’t the most graceful gymnast I’ve ever seen (says she, who can just about manage a forward roll if given a push) but when she jumps she seems to defy gravity, a characteristic she shares with some of the best ice skaters and other athletes. Apparently the Gymnastics committee can’t keep up with the complexity and daring of her jumps, and is consistently underrating their difficulty. To me, she’s an absolute powerhouse, and considering that the floor work finals in London in 2012 featured 8 white athletes, she will be a model of excellence for lots of little girls watching the Olympics. Just have a look at her here.
  • And in other news, a Judoka from tiny Kosovo has won a gold medal in Judo. I’m always cheering on the little countries. Distria Krasniqi apparently took up judo after practicing with her brother, and she beat someone from Japan in the women’s 48kg final. Well done that woman!
  • And because I’ve been spending so much time feeling sorry for myself in bed, I discovered these domino videos – people basically set up thousands of dominos, tip one and hope that the effect will ripple out. I find them strangely fascinating but also horrifying – all that work destroyed in two minutes! And who cleans it all up? Do the dominoes need to be sorted back into their individual boxes to be reused at a later event? It looks like entropy in action, but I do still quite like it. There’s an example here.
  • And finally, in keeping with our musical theme yesterday (I agree with you all, it’s Elvis all the way for me, though Peggy Lee does a decent job), here is the unmatchable, incomparable Nina Simone, singing my theme song for today. Enjoy!

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot (But Not in a Good Way)

Well Dear Readers, here is sickbed update number seven, and if only my fever would behave itself I feel as if I might actually be on the verge of getting better. I am cautiously hopeful at the moment so keep your fingers crossed! Goodness knows what this is, but I will be very glad to wave goodbye to it.

Anyhow, I was sitting in the garden and something jet- black flew in – I honestly thought it was a smut from someone’s bonfire, or a scrap of black dustbin bag. But then it landed on the hemp agrimony, and I could see that it was a peacock butterfly, as fresh as you like. I didn’t manage to get a photograph of its spectacular eyespots, but in a way that satanic black was so surprising that I wasn’t sorry.

When the light changed, I could see that the ends of the antennae have tiny gold spots on them, and you can see the butterfly’s long tongue probing into the flower.

Lots of other insects are enjoying it as well. Such a raggedy plant and yet every year it’s popular. The purple loosestrife is just coming into flower too, so there will be plenty to keep this lot going until September at least.

And then there’s this plant, which will hopefully provide some autumn sustenance – once upon a time it was called sedum but it’s now a Hylotelephium, though what variety it is I can’t remember – chip in if you know! It’s a most delightful chocolate colour.

Anyhow, to round this off, I thought I’d leave you with a few ‘fever’ songs for your delectation. Firstly, the wonderful ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ by Arrow – if this doesn’t get a party started, I don’t know what will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L9jBi7sGsc

And now, two versions of ‘Fever’. What a great song this is! See whether you prefer Peggy Lee or Elvis. I think Elvis has the edge for me, but how I love that you can hear every single word, and the weight of erotic meaning that both artists give to it. Summer is officially here, though if my personal summer could get back to normal body temperature I’d be ecstatic.

‘Fever’ – Peggy Lee Version

‘Fever’ – Elvis Version

Spoke Too Soon…

Dear Readers, after feeling as if I was on the mend yesterday my fever has come back with a vengeance today. What the hell is going on? Maybe that quip about malaria isn’t so wide of the mark. Anyhow, at least I’m not working so I can crash out in bed with my teeth chattering. There are different schools of thought on whether you’re better off bringing the fever down, or letting it run its course – the fever is the body’s way of fighting the infection but it doesn’t make it a lot of fun for the battleground (i.e. me). So, I am holding on for as long as possible and then taking paracetamol when I can’t stand it any more. Hopefully it will all sort itself out. It would be heavily ironic to have a week off and be sick until it’s time to go back to work.

Anyway.

What I wanted to say was that I never miss my Mum so much as when I’m sick. I feel myself longing for her instinctive way of comforting and coaxing, her patience and those lovely cold hands on my forehead. She was always at the ready with a tin of Heinz tomato soup, or fish with mashed potato and a parsley sauce, or a boiled egg with soldiers. Best of all were the chilled tinned peaches with Bird’s custard. She could persuade anyone to eat, my Mum.

Sometimes when we were children we’d have what were described as ‘bilious attacks’. These generally involved vomiting all over ourselves and the bedclothes. My long hair was a particular challenge. Mum would change the sheets, wash my hair, change the pyjamas, put me back into bed and sing a medley of songs from the early sixties. She had a great fondness for Ghost Riders in the Sky, I remember, and also ‘The Girl in the Wood‘ – clearly Frankie Laine was a favourite. Generally, an hour after we’d gone to sleep we’d do it all over again. I never had the sense that Mum was the slightest bit irritated, but of course I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I remember that poem about love’s ‘austere and lonely offices’ by Robert Hayden, and it seems to me that that is what love is – the things that you do when you don’t feel like it, the little things that no one even notices at the time. I remember those nights, with Mum singing in the semi-darkness as a kind of magic. It seemed to me that she could heal anything, and I had absolute faith in her ability to know what to do. What a responsibility, and yet it felt like what she was born to do.

I still miss you, Mum. I always will.

Oh The Irony….

Dear Readers, there is something a little ironic about having gotten through 18 months of a pandemic without even being pinged by the NHS app, only to catch something and end up self-isolating when ‘Freedom Day’ is today, 19th July. On the other hand, ‘Freedom Day’ won’t be freedom for vulnerable people, people who have compromised immune systems because of chemotherapy, elderly people or anyone else who has reason to fear the devastating potential effects of this virus. With only 50% of the country double-vaccinated, would it really have hurt to keep things on an even keel for another month or so? I don’t doubt that most people will continue to be sensible, but there has been a leadership vacuum of colossal proportions in this country. My heart goes out to people working in the NHS who are seeing the numbers of the hospitalized rising inexorably. We have been abandoned. No wonder so many people are filled not with joy at the unlocking, but with trepidation.

Anyhow, I have done my Covid test and posted it, and now I wait to see if what I have is something known or something unknown. I feel a bit tired, but basically much better, so I will just have to be a patient patient. Thank you for all the good wishes, and in particular to the person who reminded me that even if  it’s not Covid it doesn’t mean that  I should rush headlong back into my usual frantic round of activity – I think the phrase was ‘other viruses are available’, which made me hoot.  That is excellent advice. I feel tired to my bones somehow: it’s sometimes a struggle just putting one foot in front of another. But then, there’s always the garden, and it’s too blooming hot to do any actual work so I just sat in the shade and tried to pay attention, as that is the cure for most ills.

If you look very carefully at the picture below, you can just see a tiny plane about to enter the clouds. Who remembers that feeling when you’re on a flight and the plane starts to judder as you enter the clouds, as if it’s flying through something viscous? Or that extraordinary sensation when you get above the clouds and there’s the sun and that perfect blue? It always reminds me of that Buddhist sense that behind all our nonsense there is that clear, vast ‘mind’ that is available to all of us if only we could put other things aside.

I wouldn’t want you all to think that I was being too lazy, so I actually got up and wandered over to the pot of ‘wild flowers’ that we planted about a month ago. It’s fair to say that they haven’t been a stunning success, but what’s with the brassica? It looks like oilseed rape to me.

But all is not lost, because I did notice a small white butterfly hanging around earlier this morning, and when I bent down for a closer look, she has laid a single egg. Now, if you’re a gardener I can imagine you not being that impressed, but at least Small Whites only lay one egg, as opposed to 50 like a Large White. I shall have to see if this one survives, and shall have to remind my poor long-suffering husband not to water too enthusiastically this evening when he gets the hosepipe out.

In other news, the Great Willowherb is just opening. Every year the buds are parasitized by some little moth, and every year it seems to make not a jot of difference to the flowering.

And the collared doves are huddled in the whitebeam for shade. I think these birds are underestimated on the looks front, with their subtle shades of cinnamon and fawn and dusty grey.

And so, there you have it. I expect a few more garden posts in the next few days, but the weather looks gorgeous. Stay safe out there, UK people, and avoid any idiots….