Monday, March 31, 2008


When I woke this morning; it was spring.

(Something about the light.)

There were clouds in the west and it had rained heavily in the night but, none the less, briefly, it was spring.


(I had a fit on Saturday evening and it takes several days to recover)

- but joyfully - I crossed the room and looked out.

My garden is aerial.

(And easily misunderstood from below.)

From above (which means from my bedroom window) anyone would immediately see its inconvenient paths are really a small, knotted maze.

The tops of bushes, of roses and Bay level with my bed.

So does the Spanish Broom.


Woolly aphids!

Too early?

Well - hover flies already are hovering there!

These aphids cling close; no space between.

- Pretty in the distance (like lavender spires).

Close up - gross.

* * * * *

Greenfly are ok.

If they mass on the rose which crosses the gate, I take my broom, lift it skywards - and sweep.

I don't clean my house. Not much. Not often.

But gardening is different.

So are Woolly aphids.

I tried binoculars.

Too weak.

Ming's were in the shed.

Too strong.

Woolly aphids? Can't tell.

* * * * *

Didcott's surviving though.

It was the first time he'd seen me have a fit.

Not that it's very dramatic.

(Just tiring.)

It was supper. Didcott saw me slump, leapt up; caught me, fork in hand.

Nearly impaled my face.

Didcott was frightened by my fit.

It was his fork which terrified me!

* * * * *

There was a rainstorm, that night too.

(The so-much-rain-falling-in-only-five-seconds-it-seems-as-if-the-world-is-falling-apart kind of rainstorm.)

Worthing was ten for an hour. (So he could have a bath, I think.)

As I fell asleep, I noticed his silhouette in front of the opened window; next to Didcott's.

I could hear them sniffing the rain.

(They were facing east, rain comes from the west here; nearly always.)

* * * * *

A kindly prison guard phoned yesterday.

Ming is worried about the Syllabubs. Please would I visit them?

* * * * *

Just wait, I said, until I can walk more than ten feet again. Then, I said, I will.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


For Tomorrow

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Miss Martin phoned again this morning.

She wanted to know if I'd seen any Mounties.

(Ha! Ha!)

I said Merlinprincesse had mentioned the C.I.A. and F.B.I. too.

Then, I said - the only reason I can think of why the C.I.A (or the F.B.I) would be interested in Ming - would be if he didn't have the right papers.

But Dennis Price says he can't remember ever having seen Ming's birthplace listed as one from which people need visas or passports .

(And he should know because he used to be a Law Enforcement Officer.)

- So, if neither the C.I.A. nor the F.B.I. have any reason to be after Ming - well - that leaves only the R.C.M.P.

There was a pause.

A long one.

Miss Martin drew a deep breath (I could hear it) - and asked,

"Where does Ming come from?"

She wouldn't accept 'Here' - so I mumbled.

Then she asked if we'd been threatened at any time.

I started to tell her about the lady in Manchester and her £5,000 book club and the pressed geraniums we'd received in the post. Then I realised:-

a.) I was admitting Ming's identity papers are forged


b.) If he didn't need them, why did I buy them?


c.) The U.S.A. has different laws from us - so the advice probably doesn't hold good here anyway.


I stopped.

I thought.

Then, I said "Hello, hello, hello, can you hear me?" several times.

And rang off.

Then, I put more runner bean seeds in the airing cupboard and trimmed the box bushes.

We've run out of cereal.

The cats have fleas.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Rather a pleasant morning.

(Despite the rain.)

Took a walk round the garden.

Where I:-
1.) Inspected the roof of the shed. (It's got worse but nothing can be done until the wood's dried out and the weather has improved.)

2.) Regretted the wind-scorch at the top of the bay tree. (It's too high. Can't do anything about that either.)

3.) Felt pleased that the bed of dwarf cyclamen looks so healthy (!).

4.) Chased some cats.
* * * * *
Miss Martin phoned.

This inspired me to put even more runner beans in the airing cupboard.

(We should have a good crop this year.)

Miss Martin says she isn't convinced it's the M.O.D. which has taken Ming. She can't find anyone at work who knows anything about it.

(Except for her chauffeur - and he says he just happened to be passing when the prison bus came by and thought, since he was there, asking Mrs Rustbridger to make a cup of tea would be a friendly thing to do. He hoped it had helped.)

(I said it did.)


Miss Martin asked if we have any enemies.

I told her Merlinprincesse has advised me to watch out for the Royal Canadian Mounted police.
Miss Martin asked if I had seen many men lately with red jackets and big hats riding up our street on horseback.


(But they wouldn't have come like that, would they? They'd have worn camouflage!)


Thursday, March 27, 2008


I'm getting tireder by the second.

Last night, late, the phone rang.

A crisp voice at the other end (female).

We'd be collected early this morning; taken by car to see Ming.

(Good. Trains and lay-bys don't mix!)

But I wish she'd explained 'early'.

The car arrived at five.

I woke the children and found Didcott had aged a few years and Worthing was eight months old.

(Or around that.)

I wanted to scream - "Why? Why now? What's wrong with being ten? Isn't it nice being ten? I thought you said you like throwing coats on the floor and not washing!"

But the driver might have heard.

(He was in the kitchen, taking cereal packets from the cupboards and making tea.)

(I expect he's used to helping families like this.)

Didcott carried Worthing to the car while I went into the garden and took breaths of morning air.
The buds on the Madame Alfred Carriere Rose are distinctly red. They always are. Why? The flowers are cream. (Though with a revolting pinkish tone.) It was a mistake, this rose. It's big and floppy and I didn't want pinkish when I bought it and I still don't.

(Monet would have liked it.)

The buds on the apple tree are bigger now, even bigger and more open than yesterday, but I still don't know if they are for flowers or for leaves.

I began to pull one open to see but the driver came and quietly said,

"That isn't a good idea. Not really."

(Of course, he was right.)

Then he said it was time go.

More tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Gosh! I'm shattered!

I know why Mrs Rustbridger has been complaining about our shed. Last night, it woke me!

She's right. It is noisy! Very!

I stumbled to the window - and there it was, trembling, rumbling and glowing green.

Personally, I think going to investigate that shed in the middle of a dark, cold, lonely, Ming-less night was exceptionally brave.

But I did it!

One of the washing machines was finishing its cycle.

Didcott was there, waiting to open its door.

"Well," he said, "You were bound to find out some time."


"These machines are Multi-Purpose-Distance-Clothes-Swappers".


"MPDCs. Mega-powered by Sock-Drive.

"It's all quite straightforward, once you know.

"You put clothes in - and they are washed in the usual way. Then, they zoom through space to Mars, where they are taken from a corresponding machine and replaced with clothes of a different size."

(That explains lots of things!)

"And all this on 'green energy'!"

(Sweat from smelly feet - hence, 'Sock Drive'.)

"Well!" I thought. "That certainly clears up one of the major mysteries of the known universe."

I returned to bed; a wiser woman.

There was one mystery left though.

"Why," I wondered, as I fell back to sleep, "does Didcott need baby clothes?"

(One more germinated tomato.)


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


1. Age - 47yrs.

2. Marital Status - First marriage.

3. How did we meet? - Well, Ming simply happened to land in my shed. It was a Thursday afternoon - and I was weeding. He opened the door and walked into sunlight for the first time on earth.

It was shock at first sight.

I offered him a cup of tea (as one does!) - and, well, you know the rest!
4. Education - Minor public school in Kent.
(i.e. Fee paying but not famous.)
There was no stress on academic achievement but we did grow our own food and learnt how to preserve it for winter. We also learnt to cook. (Which is unusual.)
Quite a large number of its ex-students are now working in horticulture and market gardening.
A few have opened their own whole-food restaurants serving organically grown food.
5. I rely on the mundane to keep me calm. On rainy days, knitting fulfills the same function as gardening.
6. My first income came from knitting school jumpers.
7. I find small talk difficult. That's why cups of tea are useful. They define the length of a visit.
If you enjoy a conversation, you can offer your visitor 'another cup' - except sometimes you can't - because offering a second cup is frequently used as a polite indication that your guests should leave.
8. I live in permanent fear of catastrophe: nuclear war, famine, that kind of thing. By growing vegetables, I provide myself with delusions of safety.
By growing bushes and plants I help save The Earth - simultaneously creating somewhere pleasant to sit while waiting for the disaster which (almost inevitably) will come.
9. I like tatty clothes. The best scent is bonfire.
10. I like my hands to be coated with dried earth - then I don't mind picking up worms.
Ron asks for my life in six words:-
Me, Ming, Didcott, Worthing, Garden, Blog.
Yes, I think that sums it up pretty succinctly.


Cats have been scaling the Madeleine d'Angevine vine; shredding its bark en route to the top of the wall.

Claws have been sharpened on the olive tree trunk and the mulch is a cat latrine.

Flag iris at the front of the house is removed to a nettle bed (specially planted!) - and last years teasles are iron railings - ossified; white since autumn.

(Robert, Caddis and Ceres - beware!)

* * * * *

Life reflects life.

* * * * *
Tomatoes have been bothering me too.

'Experts' say Moneymaker and Gardener's Delight are naff.
So why do people grow them.? I wish I had Moneymaker and Gardener's Delight to complement my Tomato Il Pantano Romanesco seedlings.

(Especially Gardener's Delight.)

Miss Martin says she had nothing to do with Ming's arrest.

She says she has no idea why her chauffeur was lurking in Mrs Rustbridger's porch - but she'll ask him and let me know.

She asked how the runner beans are doing.

I was evasive.

Later, a man phoned. He said he was from the M.O.D. Mobile Prisons Unit; I'll be allowed to see Ming in two days time. Would I like to be taken to the bus (where it will be parked in a lay-by for the convenience of visitors) or have the bus brought to our house?

I imagined making tea for a bus load of prisoners - and said I'd prefer the layby.

He said he'd arrange things - and will 'get back to me'.

I'm feeling cheered already and trying not to sit by the phone!


Monday, March 24, 2008


If I were rich, I'd erect elegant iron railings round the ground by our house.

But I'm not.

(So I can't.)

Robert, Caddis and Ceres live on the other side of Lucy. If they see a newly planted plant; they unplant it.

(Ceres is wrongly named.)

If Robert, Caddis and Ceres see an un-tended garden, they trample its weeds and leave sweet wrappers to show who was there. If Robert, Caddis and Ceres didn't live on the other side of Lucy - I might not be so deeply wracked with the desire for iron railings.

But they do.

(So I am.)

Another blade of grass has emerged next to the parsley and more tomato seedlings have germinated in the airing cupboard.
I think I'll put extra runner beans in their place.
(I don't trust Miss Martin's methods.)
This morning, I bought clothes in a charity shop and tried them out in the washing machines in the shed.
An hour later, they were still there.
On the other hand, I had a 'profit' of three more new socks.
Now I have six.
Three pairs.
Didcott saw them on the line.
"If I were you," he said. I'd put them back. You might need them sometime."
Tomorrow, I'm going to the M.O.D. to confront Miss Martin.
I must gather courage.
It must be done!

For Tomorrow


Sunday, March 23, 2008



Ron Eklof has sent a haiku.

(Everyone's trying to cheer me up.)

I find no relief
Amid the dead nasturtiums
For dear Ming is gone
They're not dead!


Worthing says - "It's the thought that counts!".

(He's the gentler of the two.)

I say - "Ming has not 'gone' - he's simply absent - temporarily."

In fact - today, he phoned!

(All mobile prisoners are being given the opportunity to call a relative of their choice, free and for three minutes - because it's Easter!)

He says the prison bus is moving randomly around the country like a Cruise Missile - or an Armed Response Unit.

No-one can tell where it's going or where it's been.


At night, it stops in lay-bys. In the morning, it moves on.

Ming's seeing quite a lot of the countryside this way. He says he's 'put in a suggestion' that they try Europe next. The driver's thinking about it.

Time ran out and the phone went dead.

Mrs Rustbridger has been to the police because, she says - I "stole her washing".

Now, whenever she walks past our house, the children shout


from an upstairs window.

(If they catch me laughing - I'll pretend it's because of the man with the giant pumpkin.)



Saturday, March 22, 2008


The parsley has grown its first proper leaf.

It's curled. Like a baby's fist.


Parsley can generally be trusted to 'come true'.

(Unlike humans.)

(Or squash!)

Lucy brought me a packet of pumpkin seeds this morning. She said she couldn't find any fully grown pumpkins in the shops - it’s the wrong time of year - but she hopes the seeds will do instead.

I told her about Mr Subjunctive. He's written to say he's never been given a pumpkin - even though he lives in Iowa. (America.)

Lucy pointed to his caveat:-

"I suppose,"
he says,
"I haven't ever had a crisis where receiving a pumpkin would have helped. Though it's not like getting a pumpkin is likely to make things any worse. . . . "
Lucy urged me to look properly at the picture on the packet.


Pumpkins can make things worse.

A little boy is sitting on top of a giant pumpkin - a pumpkin so big it almost hides the man crouching behind it.

The text along the top invites me to 'Beat the World Record' and grow one that's even bigger.

"This pumpkin," I said, "Is already too big!"

For what? - Lucy asked.

"For my garden," I said. "It'll be as tough as old kale and as tasteless as flat leafed parsley."

She went home.

Maybe next week I'll give her something to put in her garden!

There's an idea!


Friday, March 21, 2008


The wind's got up again.

It's all grey and horrible outside.

The Spanish Broom has been stretched sideways.
I keep bumping my head against a branch.

I'll have to saw it off.

(The branch.)

I can't stake it because a stake would have to go into the ground precisely where the compost bin is and I can't move the compost bin because there isn't anywhere else to put it and because Ming isn't here to help me move it and he is the only person whose help I would want in anything.

* * * * *


* * * * *

The buds on the apple tree are swelled. You can see them distinctly from the house.
Flowers or leaves?

My brain is fossilised!

* * * * *
I told the children they're to be called Didcott and Worthing. They can chose which is which.

And I asked if they'd 'grow up' for a few weeks - so they can help while we're in crisis.

They said they like being ten.

* * * * *
Yesterday afternoon, Mrs Rustbridger made a cake and brought it round.

She brought her washing too.

She said her machine is broken.

I said

"Sorry, I'm using mine".

She said

"What about the ones in the shed?".


We went to see.

All three were mid-cycle so I made coffee; we ate cake; and waited.

When we went back to the shed, the machines had stopped. There was one sock in each.

"Well," I said briskly. "We'd better get these three socks on the line before it starts to rain again."

Mrs Rustbridger put her clothes into the machine.

* * * * *

Two tomato seeds have germinated already!

Removing our nightwear from the airing cupboard has clearly worked!

* * * * *

When Mrs Rustbridger came to collect her washing - it wasn't there!

She's not pleased.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


Can you believe it?

Within three minutes of Ming being taken away in a mobile prison, Mrs Rustbridger arrived at our door with a flask of tea. She'd even brought cups.
I was startled.
(I wasn't friendly.)

But she had tears in her eyes - and was adamant she had nothing to do with the M.O.D. .

- She'd complained to Environmental Health. Yes.
- She'd informed the School Authorities and Social Services about our children. Yes.
- She'd reported a suspected 'Change of Use'. Yes!

- Yes! She admitted to all this but she wasn't - she really wasn't - in collusion with the M.O.D.

I invited her in.

Then Lucy came round. Mrs Rustbridger had brought only two cups - so I made tea in my teapot and got three mugs from the cupboard.

I said I wondered what Americans do in a crisis. Lucy said she thinks they give each other pumpkins.

* * * * *

After they'd gone, I went and peered behind the cooker. The night before, Ming had knocked over a coffee pot and grounds had splashed up the wall.

I went and looked at a stain on the living room carpet - where Ming had spilled tea.

I went and looked at the burn marks on a nasturtium in the bathroom - Ming had spattered it with toothpaste.
(Interesting that - toothpaste must be lethal for nasturtiums if they get too much of it!)

Then, I wondered how Ming was getting on.

Then, I wondered why the first lot of seeds in the airing cupboard had germinated well but the second batch had failed.

The temperature was constant.
I'd kept all seeds moist.
I'd used the same pots.
The same kind of compost.

Then - I realised. The first seeds had been alone. But, after I'd seen Ming wearing my flowery dressing gown, I'd begun to use half a shelf for nightwear and knickers.

That was the only variable.

I took them out.

Then I went and talked to the Syllabubs.

I'm missing Ming.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


This morning, Ming was taken away in a double-decker prison van.

While the M.O.D. police 'helped' him on board a policewoman from our local station was assigned to me.

"Double-Decker Prison Vans are a new idea," she explained enthusiastically. "They're cheaper to run than ordinary prisons - no local authority rates - and they're versatile - they can be used as tour buses if there's a dip in demand for custodial sentences."

Apparently, it's a pilot scheme for 'not-violent' but 'highly sensitive' criminals.

I said "Ming isn't a criminal. Nor has he ever struck me as highly sensitive."

He appeared at a window on the top deck, sat down - and waved.

"Hey!" I said to the policewoman. "Is there any chance you could ask him, before he goes, where he put the new packet of beetroot seeds?"

She radioed a message through.

We could see a guard walk along the deck and exchange a few sentences with Ming.

The policewoman listened into her walky-talky.

"He says he can't remember where he put the beetroot seeds," she said. "But he wants to tell you that both your children are boys - and are called Didcott and Worthing."

"They're jolly well not!" I said.

As the bus moved away, Miss Martin's chauffeur emerged from Mrs Rustbridger's porch.

"I've asked your neighbour to make you a cup of tea," he said.

Then he walked off down the road.

I went into our house, slammed the door and went straight to the airing cupboard.

I've tipped all the pots of un-germinated seeds into the rubbish bin and have replaced them with tomatoes.

This afternoon - I'm going out.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Ming and I have quarrelled.

(We never have before.)

It was at the garden centre.

Ming needed green manure. I wanted tomato seed.

(At least five varieties.)

He said - there isn't room in the garden - and it's too shady.

I said - we're not putting them in the garden, they're for the allotment.

He said - there isn't room on the allotment.

He said he wants to put in more onion sets there.

I said - that's a waste of space. Onions and potatoes can be bought in shops but the only way to eat tomatoes is to pluck them in the sunshine and put them straight into your mouth.

(They don't grow tomatoes on Mars. It's not warm enough.)

He said - he'll need space for broad beans.

I hate broad beans.

We compromised.

He bought his green manure.

I made do with a packet of

Pomadoro / Tomato Il Pantano Romanesco

(Perhaps I should learn Italian!)

I wanted seeds for purple carrots (with orange middles).

He said he wouldn't have room for them either.

Ok, I said, I'll grow them along my edges.

(I'm already growing beetroot in between box bushes. I too am running out anywhere to put anything!)

I wanted Sorrel.

He said we could pick it wild.

I said dogs might have peed on wild sorrel.

He said I'm too fussy.


Then he wanted a packet of beet spinach.

I said beet spinach is alright up to a point - but it grows tough if you don't eat it at precisely the right moment and we might not want to eat it at the right moment - we might want to eat something else.

He said the red stalks would remind him of Mars.

I said "Rubbish".

The man ahead of us at the cash till had his arms full of plants from the 'FOR SALE' table.

He was chortling away and telling everyone in the queue about his 'bargain'.

The plants were dead.

I'm glad I'm not married to him!

_ _ _ _ _

Monday, March 17, 2008


Four men from The Council came this morning.

By chance, they arrived almost together.

The first was from Environmental Health. He said a neighbour had complained about our 'noisy shed'.

(When he said it, he smirked.)

I invited him in.

A man from The Planning Department rang on the bell. He accused us of turning our home into a Youth Hostel without applying for a 'Change of Use' certificate. A neighbour, he said, had witnessed drunken teenagers on our path about two weeks ago.

I asked if he'd like a mug of tea.

Then came an Inspector from The Education Attendance Service. (We used to call them 'Truancy Officers'.) A neighbour had reported children 'playing in our garden during term time'.

I put the kettle on.

The bell rang for a third time. A 'neighbour', apparently, thinks we've been fostering at least one child without going through the proper procedures - so, here, was a Social Worker to 'check up on us'.

I suggested he joined the other three men at the kitchen table.

He asked for coffee.

It was like a party. They drank their elevenses, ate biscuits, compared notes - and grew hilarious.

We are, they've decided, 'a nice, conventional family'. What a shame it is (they commiserated) that we have to put up with such malicious neighbours!

Only the one!

If I hadn't been able to offer them chocolate digestives - things might not have worked out so well. (Or if they hadn't arrived together!)

The parsley seed in the pot with the blade of grass in it that I first mistook for parsley - has germinated.

_ _ _ _ _

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I've discovered something interesting.

All Martians start life with 2,428,272,000 seconds in hand - which they can live in any order they choose.

After that, time must be consecutive.

I think I'll go for a walk.
_ _ _ _ _

The horticultural society is changing suppliers; so its stocks are low. It only has compost for cuttings.
Ming bought an electric toothbrush yesterday and has been cleaning earth from the wrinkles in his face.

He looks much better; less like a music stave.

There are seventy-seven years in 2,428,272,000 seconds.

I asked Ming how many he's got left.

He wouldn't say.
_ _ _ _ _

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Over the last few days, I've been worrying about a nasturtium. There are eggs inside a leaf. If I pluck it, the plant will grow slower. If I don't, the infestation may spread.

I've other worries too:-

1. No more seeds have germinated; possibly because I'm using last year's compost.

2. I can't afford new seed compost in the same week as potting compost - and I need both.

3. Last year, I bought purple flowering chives by mistake. (I wanted white.) Should I use them (simply because I have them) or start again?

(I can't ask Ming. He hasn't grasped the aesthetic of the garden.)

4. Mrs Rustbridger phoned and said she'll be reporting us to the council. (I don't know why.)

But good things are also happening:-

1. Ming has reverted to his familiar age and the children have been ten for more than a week now. It gives a more settled atmosphere to the household.

2. We are thinking of going on holiday. Ming would like to go camping on Purbeck.
(The weather has turned mild and the wind has dropped - but there is almost constant drizzle so, I don't think it'll be possible.)

3. There was a thrush in the Bay Tree when we woke up.

4. The wind moved the clematis to the north side of the wall.

a. Good - I won't need to prune it so harshly.

b. Bad - it's the north side.

Sometimes, gardens are confusing!

_ _ _ _ _

Friday, March 14, 2008


Ben Perkis has taken the over-use of adverbs by the scruff of the neck and has transformed it into a creative and humorous art form.

Here's one of his 'poems':-

Easily he played the game
And winningly he won.
Clappingly the people clapped
And my mate's a Hun.

I wish I were able to tackle difficult tasks so boldly!

I don't know the sex of our children (still!) - but I'm embarrassed to ask.

It wasn't until late last night that I plucked up courage to tell Ming about Mrs Rustbridger seeing the washing machines.

We were in bed. Ming sat up; alarmed.

"Then she knows!"

I told him not to shout.

I also said I too had been wondering about them. What they are for?

"What are they for?"

For a moment, he was puzzled.

"What d'you think they're for?"

"I don't know."

(I was beginning to feel miserable.)

"Washing, of course!"

Then, he went to sleep.

(At least, he shut his eyes.)

I've planted runner bean seeds in pots and left them in the garden.

Ming says Miss Martin says they do better if you start them early - but slowly. She says it's better than putting them in the airing cupboard.

(Since when has she been our 'Gardening Expert'?)
_ _ _ _ _

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Can you believe it!

Mrs Rustbridger phoned again this morning to complain about the shed making noises in the night.

"Mrs Rustbridger," I said. (Ranted!) "For the last three days lorries have been blown over on motorways, trains have been crashing into fallen trees, and the only thing we have been able to hear above the raging of the wind has been the sound of wheelie bins and recycling boxes skidding down the street - and you complain about our shed!"

But she was adamant.

Not only that, she insisted upon coming round! She wanted to look inside.

Fortunately, there was a lull in the wind - though we had to rattle and pull for a couple of minutes before the door would open. A branch of the Rambling Rector was caught across it.

I wasn't too worried about what we would find.

Ming's suitcase doesn't look anything like a spaceship.

And I knew it was there.

But I hadn't expected five green suitcases.

Not that Mrs Rustbridger took any notice of them. To her, they were simply five old suitcases bunged at the back of a shed.

She was more surprised by the row of three washing machines, two of which had just gone into a spin cycle.

Me too!

It's drizzling now - a welcome change from sleet! The clematis has blown onto the other side of the wall. The hollyhock is undamaged. The lemon balm is struggling. (But that's cats; not the weather.)

Ming's gone to buy: -
Tomato Seed
Seed for a Second Variety of Beetroot
Spinach Seed
Beet Spinach Seed

He's back at work now and one Jerusalem Artichoke is up.

(Don't we hear about it!)
_ _ _ _ _

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The Rambling Rector has gouged into the shed roof and ripped the felt away.

The wind lifts his flailing branches from the wall and is pushing them east - towards the house.

The Broom is coming with them.

Together, they press on the arch where a honeysuckle grows. The honeysuckle is splitting. The arch swings loose on both sides.

I stand at the window and watch.

The arms of the Rambling Rector are fifteen feet long; its thorns are half inch razors of solid wood.

The sun shines. The sky is blue. But there is a Kraken in our garden - and the wind has brought it to life.

Patrice (who has come, so nobly, to the defence of adverbs) has written an 'Adverb Poem' and posted it on her blog. (Saturday March 8th.)

It is very delicate and light.

Gingerly I sifted you
with cinnamon and spice.
Gingerly you frosted me
with everything that’s nice.
Gingerly this recipe should
fill us once or twice.
Gingerly let’s have some tea
and cut ourselves a slice.

. . . Very soothing, I think, for people with gardening blogs whose gardens are presently being destroyed!

_ _ _ _ _

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Within four minutes of putting down the phone, the doorbell rang.

(This was Friday morning.)

Thrusting the infant Ming into the arms of the nearest child, I went to answer.

It was a woman. A woman in a black suit. She was wearing dark glasses. With red frames.

A long, silver car with dark, polished windows was parked across the road, its engine quietly running.

A chauffeur in black, M.O.D. uniform was leaning against the bonnet. He too wore dark glasses - but he smiled.

The woman in the suit said, "My name is Miss Martin".

Without waiting for invitation, she stepped briskly through to the kitchen.

Ming's towel was on the floor. The children were under the table.

Ming, himself, had returned to his familiar size. He was wearing a cream dressing gown with pink roses on it. His back was to us while he tied the girdle.

(It had been on the clothes horse, airing - and it's horrible . Lucy's mum gave it to her three months ago because it didn't suit her and Lucy gave it to me. It doesn't suit me either but I feel obliged to keep it because it was a present.)

Miss Martin said "Mr Ming . . . "

At which moment, Ming finished tying the girdle and turned.

I think Miss Martin was as startled as I. His greenish skin had turned sallow. His pink-punk hair had fallen greasily to one side - and he needed to clean his teeth.

Miss Martin abandoned whatever it was she had been planning to say - she could see he wasn't well - and went back to her car.

Ming's been off work, the last few days. The weather irritates him. He wants the ground to warm up so his Jerusalem Artichokes will grow. Maybe, he says, the new ones will talk with him.

_ _ _ _ _

Monday, March 10, 2008


We've had storms overnight. Several ports are closed. Planes from North America are arriving in Britain a full hour earlier than they are due.

So far, the garden is ok - but the rain is still raining and the wires are whistling and everything that can rattle is rattling.

We'd been warned to expect fallen trees. At the very least, I'd expected the clematis to have been ripped from its place - but though its tendrils flail and its blossoms shiver and sway - it's holding firm.

Rosa Sinensis (in California) has left a comment, asking about the apple espalier in the picture.

Oh! This is an embarrassment.

The espaliered apple is a Cox - but a 'Tom Thumb', not an 'Orange Pippin'.

Until this tree, I thought all 'Coxes' were 'Orange Pippins'.

Oh! Foolish ignorance!

The 'Tom Thumb' Cox is self-fertilising. That's why I chose it. (There was no space to give it a 'friend'.) But it is not an Orange Pippin.

Oh! To walk into the sunshine and pick an apple straight from a tree, expecting all your senses to be blasted with flavour (because that's what an Orange Pippin will do!) - and to taste something from this tree instead - it is like falling downstairs when the house is empty and no-one can rescue you.

So - I enjoy having an espaliered tree. I enjoy its shape. I prune it with pride.

(And never, ever, offer visitors to taste of its fruit!)

Lindsay, too knows how stairs can let you down.

She sent this 'over-adverbialised' poem for the challenge.

She crept slowly, painfully, achingly, towards the stairs
Climbed hesitantly, shyly, tentatively upwards
Stair by stair

Ascending silently, noiselessly, stealthily
Into First Period Algebra

Late again!

Two Globe Artichokes germinated over-night.

Worried they'll be shocked by the breath of storm after the warmth of the airing cupboard, I've set them under glass tumblers on windowsills - their own little greenhouses!

So - lot's of excitement but no space left today to say what happened when the lady from the M.O.D. turned up on our doorstep, demanding she be allowed to see Ming.

I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

_ _ _ _ _

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I made a mistake with the beetroot yesterday.

It's been keeping me awake.

Wherever I sow; cats dig. Whatever I plant; cats bury.

So I made little holes in impacted ground and dropped the seeds in.

"Ha!" I thought. "You won't be able to dig them up!"

Nor will the beetroot grow.

* * * * *

On Thursday evening, I took our jumpers from the blanket drawer and laid Ming there for the night. He slept well.

In the morning, I bathed him, wrapped him in a towel and took him down for breakfast with the children.

The living room and kitchen were full of clothes festively airing; cardigans brightly coloured; jeans and trousers hanging like bunting from the backs of chairs.

The phone rang.

The M.O.D.

Why wasn't Ming at work?

"He's ill."

They wanted to talk to him.

"You can't. He's ill."

My heart beat uncomfortably.

Ming has a special code. The M.O.D. woman wanted me to recite it to her. I must ask Ming for it, she said. His answer would confirm whether he's ill - or kidnapped or under some other kind of duress. If I couldn't elicit the code from him, she would assume he was dead - or had defected. Appropriate action would follow.

"He's a cleaner," I said. "Not a scientist. He knows nothing."

Her voice was cold.

"Even nuclear warheads need dusting!"

_ _ _ _ _

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I've been busy.

I've had a long discussion with Lucy.

I went to town for runner bean seeds and got miserable because the best stationers shop in the universe is closing.

Patrice thinks she might convert me to adverbs.
She says there are things called 'Adverb Poems' in which every line begins with the same adverb. (She describes the structure on her blog.) And now, she's issued a counter-challenge.
Can we write adverb poems?

Can we?


All of a sudden - Ming seemed to be six months old.

The children ran downstairs - startled.

I wrapped Ming in his pyjama jacket and followed.

I didn't need an explanation. (Yet!) I wanted him 'back' - I wanted him the right size.

This made me pause. Do I know his 'right' size?

By the time I reached the living room, the children were in their sleeping bags and feigning sleep.

I remembered the Haiku Ron sent me.
Ming is evasive
Like some Chinese pottery
With nettled neighbours

I don't know about Ming - but the children are downright slippery! (And we keep forgetting nettles. Life is so busy!)

P.S. The Lesser Celandine are flowering in the woods.
_ _ _ _ _

Friday, March 7, 2008


A pressed geranium flower was pushed through our letter box in a brown envelope this morning.

I haven't told Ming.

The leaves on the hazel bush are newly stretched open. There are tight little notches against the stems where the catkins will grow.

At eight o'clock yesterday evening, I read bedtime stories to three ten year olds.

(I had expected only two!)

Their greenish faces were flushed greener after the heat of their extra-hot baths and they were dressed, rather sweetly, I thought, in old fashioned, striped pyjamas.

One of them was Ming.

He was as happy and as excited as the real 'children'; jostling, as they did, to snuggle up close and see the pictures. I hadn't realised, until then, that his age too could change.

We'd borrowed books from Mrs Rustbridger's grandson. He is fourteen now but said these were the ones he'd enjoyed most when he was ten.

They are rubbish

The plots are ridiculous; the illustrations crudely drawn; the names of characters so much like bodily functions, I was embarrassed to read them aloud.

In fact I couldn't read them aloud - said so - and stopped.

The children were disappointed.

Ming was cross.

He said the stories were good.

I said he should read them then.

So, he said, ok, he would! But he'd put the kettle on first.

I said, he couldn't, he was too young, had he forgotten, he was ten?

But he simply ignored the jibe, turned, and began to get off the bed where we were all sitting.

The children wrestled noisily for the book.

One grabbed it from my hand. The other came to my defence and tried to pluck it back. The first held tight; then let go. The book spun suddenly into the air and the top of its spine caught Ming sharply between the shoulder blades.

"Ow!" he said - and shrank.

Once again, the night was windy and I didn't sleep well.

But now, it is sunny. Not warm. But dry.

I must strip the dead leaves from the Cordyline Palms. They're looking tatty and the insects which over-wintered against the trunk won't be needing them so much now that spring is settling in.

I haven't seen Lucy recently.

_ _ _ _ _

Thursday, March 6, 2008


The snail which failed to impress Ming has left its flowerpot. I marked it with enamel paint and chucked it over the wall.

If it returns - I'll recognise it.

It would have been nice to throw it into Mrs Rustbridger's garden.

Ming saw me tempted.

He saw me not succumb.

A fascinating example - he said - of earthly restraint.

(Apparently, Martians are forever chucking snails over each other's walls.)

Later, I overheard Mrs Rustbridger chatting with the postman. He thinks the Armandii belongs to her.

"I'm impressed," he said. "My evergreen clematis never flowers like that!"

I held my breath.

"I expect it's the combination of soil and position," she said, proudly.

I expect it is.

Nearly all its leaves are obscured by blossoms.

I'm glad the postman likes it.

I asked Ming if he would help me empty the compost bin. Instead of answering, he asked how old I would like the children to be today.

At first, I didn't see the connection . . .

Martians, it turns out, are strong and willing helpers when they are twenty-one.

They filled three wheelbarrows with dense, black, compost.

Ming took two to his allotment. The children spread the rest round the apple tree.

I took mugs of coffee to them while they worked.

They tramped compost across the kitchen floor and the living room carpet when they'd finished.

Then they asked if they could be ten years old at bedtime and would I read to them?

Pleasure warmed me. It's nice to be wanted!

_ _ _ _ _

For earlier posts, click here, or on the blue barrow at the top of the sidebar.

For Tomorrow

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


We seem to be suffering an unsolicited outbreak of beetroot seedlings.

Every parsley pot has one.

Ming still isn't persuaded the best place to begin life is at the beginning - and to work upwards.

Children need practice, I say, at being one age before moving to another - and that means taking things slowly.

They need security.

How, I ask, will they settle properly at night if they are lying there wondering how old they'll be when they wake up?

Ming says I'm boring.

Meanwhile, the children are having fun experimenting.

They went to the pub at lunchtime.

Ming was cross. He says we are being bad parents.

"This," he said, "is what happens when children are allowed to choose for themselves how old they are!"

"Then let them be babies!"

But Ming thinks parents bond better with children if they don't have to start with nappies.

He may have a point.

The hollyhock isn't doing anything very interesting. I think it must be using its energy to develop a root system. Hollyhocks are tall plants. Without strong roots, they'd fall over.

Two of the nasturtiums have four leaves now, instead of two.

After the children had spent a couple of hours this afternoon being thirteen, Ming stepped in and switched them to thirty-five so we could have a family discussion about "Why Grown Ups Don't Like Being Shouted At".

Then he decided they should be tired five-year-olds for a bit, read them stories - and persuaded them to go to bed for an afternoon rest.

Tomorrow, I'll ask how they are managing so many clothes - changes.

It's been beautiful weather today. Sunny. Tomorrow I may have to do some watering.
_ _ _ _ _

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I think my pleasure about the parsleys may have been premature. A seed husk is firmly attached to the unopened leaves of one. The other is beginning to look more like grass.

Ben Perkis (who won't be ten until March) has sent me another over-adverbialised poem.

Here it is.

The bold volcano boldly blew.
The people all scatterdly scatt.
They scaredly, worriedly ran away,
- Not very boldly too!

Ben says he is considering poetry as a career option. He likes the idea of working from home.

Ming is still insisting the strangers who came to breakfast are our children.

He says the babies he carried around until yesterday lunchtime are the same people - only younger.

By lunch, they had turned into toddlers.

Ming took them to an afternoon pre-school.

When he brought them home - they were teenagers.

Last night, they slept on camp beds in the living room.

Today, he raised the possibility of DNA tests.

He wants to 'prove' they are our children.

But I'm worried about links between the immigration authorities and the N.H.S.

I'm also wondering whether, once they've decided how old they are, they'll like gardening.

_ _ _ _ _

Monday, March 3, 2008


When I came down to breakfast this morning, there were a couple of strangers with Ming. Their skin was tinged with green and their hair was the colour of mine. (Grey.)

One (a man) was wearing slippers like the ones I found in the garden (only bigger).

The other (a woman) was clutching a nosegay of blue summer flowers.
The phone rang.

Mrs Rustbridger.

Once again, we'd disturbed her sleep.

She'd 'mentioned', she said, the flashing green lights - and now the shed had started to throb!

I said I was sorry, as best I could, and returned to the strangers and Ming.

He was holding two babies, one on each arm.

I looked. Only three beings and me in the room. The pale-green-grown-ups had gone.

"I wasn't sure which was the best age to choose," he said.

Two parsley seeds are up.

I chased a cat that was sitting on the Hollyhock.

I've done some weeding.

I can't remember much more of today!
_ _ _ _ _