Friday 22 October 2021


It’s finally dropped to 50 deg F in my small greenhouse and I’ve picked the last of the tomatoes. It’s been a long season: our first fruits were ready on July 3. And, so powerful are the cherry tomatoes, I could put away my chutney ingredients: Almost overnight, with my cherry tomatoes in the same bowl, the green medium-sized ones turned red. Hoorah.

Many weeks later than I expected I dismantled our last two tomato plants. There was some mould or maybe even blight on a stem on their last day. But it was academic as the plants were headed for the incinerator. I never compost tomato plants. I don’t want to spread blight but nor do I want the seeds from discarded tomato fruits to randomly germinate in the veggie plot.

I haven’t used Jeyes Fluid to disinfect the greenhouse now the temperatures outside have dropped. It was time to bring my lemon tree under glass and I felt Jeyes would be too strong for it. I could disinfect with a milder cleanser but I don’t want to upset the lemon tree which is full of fruit.

Now I am on that last bowl of tomatoes - the cherry and medium-sized fruits - it will be November when I cook with shop-bought ones. For four months we have enjoyed our own tomatoes and French beans, dwarf and climbers. I have a freezer-full of beans but never fear…the August-sown broad beans are in flower. And right on cue. We may yet have full pods in December. The ‘Luz de Otono’ variety is new to me. If they produce pods this side of Christmas I will include them in my future growing plans.

Meanwhile my thin leeks are gradually fattening and I plan to dig them in deeper, as suggested by a helpful member of the ‘grow your own’ group. I await the spinach crop but until then I can be picking the salad leaves. It’s hardly cold out there this late in the year.  I may even transplant the salad crops closer to the house. It’s then much easier to cover them with frost-proof netting this end of our long garden. 

So relatively warm has it been that my miniature iris bulbs are already 12 cm high. They are spring-flowering and shouldn’t even be showing themselves yet. I’ll be interested to see what Monty Don suggests for garden maintenance in the last programme of Gardeners World. It’s time to let nature go to sleep. 

Tuesday 12 October 2021


It has been a joyous, warm and sunny September. And today, October 12th, I had to come inside as it was so warm sitting on our patio. The ‘sweet petite’ tomatoes are continuing to grow and fruit in the greenhouse which is recording temperatures of 62deg F. Still.

My shed/ workspace reached 66deg F yesterday afternoon - with the door open. In a few weeks’ time I will have to dismantle my tomato plants, move begonias, geraniums and others into the greenhouse to overwinter. It has a frost stat and a small gas heater for very cold January/February days. But not yet. 

But where do I put my lemon tree? It has produced lots of fruit, hasn’t dropped its leaves, and is healthy. However the fruits haven’t yet turned yellow.Maybe next season. 

Should I wrap the whole lemon plant in bubble wrap and put it in the (well-made) shed where it’s a few degrees warmer than outside? (But I can’t heat the shed easily). Or should I put it in the greenhouse - still bubble-wrapped - where it’s lighter and where I can put in a few hours heating as temperatures drop? 

These questions don’t have to be answered yet. 

In the meantime I’ve been reflecting on what a good life I have. Yes my husband is ill with depression and I can get tired as he is debilitated by it. So I have to do more. ( I do get help in the home and garden and get lifts when required). But sitting in the sunshine, surrounded by apricot and orange begonias, my newly grown pansies, the last of the bedding plants and feeling the warmth it is a time to be alive. The news, post-Brexit, post-Afghanistan and mid-Covid is depressing and politicians have a lot to answer for. But if you are lucky enough to be able to sit in the sun this late in the year you have riches untold.  

I was listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Only Livin’ Boy in New York’ and admiring the view from my patio. I saw colour; shocking pink, blousy pot plants and a long, productive, cared-for garden. As I sipped my coffee I felt huge contentment. And I realised I’d grown up. When I heard ‘Only Livin’ Boy in New York’ first time around life was for the having - in the US, in California, in New York. But I’m older now. I’ve grown up. Yellow cabs don’t enthral me. My garden is a place of gladness and serenity. And I feel blessed. It takes work but it’s a bit of Eden, just outside my back door.

Now I’m going outside again, to wallow in ‘The Boxer’, ‘Cecelia’, the sunshine and a fresh cuppa. Bliss. 


have joined a couple of ‘as it was in photographs’ on face book. It is astonishing how, despite the geographical distances apart, life in the 19th century or in the 1930s, or even post-war, looked pretty similar for working men & women whether close to wealthy suburbs or in the sight of heavy industries and the factory gate. 

Some areas have improved since the sepia-tinted images were first made. Other areas have never recovered from the lack of production and eventual unemployment in the 1980s. Thatcher’s Britain.

But it was in the 1970s that I first saw what poverty really looked like. My father was a grammar school Head and mum worked very part-time with special needs children. We had a comfortable life surrounded by woods and playing fields. Our neighbourhood was very safe: our childhood home was in a small cul-de-sac and there was very little traffic to risk our safety out-of-doors.

Books lined the shelves in every room. We were brought up in a state of security, informed discussion and happiness. I rarely heard my parents argue and I knew little of domestic tension nor a lack of cash. However we weren’t spoiled. A Head’s salary wasn’t huge but his quality of life in and out of school made dad a good chap to be around 

But it was at a school jumble sale that I saw a very poor man indeed. Every autumn the girls’ grammar school that I attended held a jumble sale in the wood-panelled school hall. All our mums were there, donating rather than buying, manning the stalls and making teas. The Headteacher was there in her batman cloak. There were few men.

Which is why it was so noticeable when a down-at-heel father-of-many with long black hair and an even longer beard arrived with a crowd of very young children wearing jumpers that had been washed far too often. He clearly hadn’t shaved in months. The Head smiled, uncertainly, at him when he entered. She was an unmarried MA in Maths from Oxbridge. 

He ruffled through a variety of jumble bundles. As he pushed his hand into his overcoat pocket I could see it was torn and buttons hung from his coat. His trousers were too long but it was the strain in his voice that told you all was not well. 

I’d have been about 13 and I could see he wasn’t like anyone I had ever met. When he handed a few coppers over for jumpers, slacks and skirts for his brood his hands were dirty and his finger nails were long.

I imagined that family lived in one of the council estates or in a privately-rented terraced house. Now I wonder whether they were in temporary accommodation. There certainly were poor areas in my town although there was full employment.

Looking back I guess his wife had died and he was bringing up the children alone. I do recall he held conversations with some of the mums and stopped for tea and biscuits. He wasn’t frightening just sad and weary. My friend’s mum gave the children unopened packets of biscuits. I saw the man smile. A few moments of tension left his face. He looked younger.

I imagine he got most of his children’s clothes at jumble sales. His children ran around the school hall like undomesticated kittens but went to him when he called them over. They were excitable but did as they were told.

Today there will be families in England who have no idea how they are going to cope with the prospect of rising domestic fuel prices and the lack of the £20 weekly uplift. 

Around five million may have to use the Trussell Trust or food banks just to get a meal. If a kettle breaks how does it get fixed? Let’s hope there are cheap, working models of microwave ovens available for folk who aren’t going to cope with even less per month as we enter the coldest months of the year. Heat or eat? 

Poverty is a failure of a wealthy society, like ours,  to provide for those when they need it. When they need a hand-up. Our welfare state is something we should have been proud of. But it’s slipped through our fingers like twenty-pound notes. There’s a lack of care.

The Victorians saw poverty as shameful, and the result of laziness or vice. But Dr Barnardo refused to discriminate between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor. He accepted all children, regardless of race, disability or circumstance. That was London 1870. How have things changed? We have universal schooling and free school meals now but housing is poor in some areas and rents are shockingly high. And we have the food banks.

Should poverty exist in the world’s fifth richest nation?