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Out of the blue yesterday I got a text from my good friend Ted McKenna reminding me of our amazing day in Belfast in 91.We were promoting ‘Internal Exile’ and miming the single on ‘Kelly’, a hugely popular TV chat show hosted by the legendary Gerry Kelly. Ted was on the drum kit that day as he’d performed on the ‘Exile’ album. It was a nice wee promotional jolly and a rare chance to visit Northern Ireland.
It would turn out to be one of the most memorable and enjoyable TV shows I ever worked on as the guests on the day were all legends that I could only but be in awe of.
Both Ted and I were jaw dropped when we were in the Green Room mingling with the others and I could have stayed there all night in their company. Michael Bentine, June Whitfield and Norman Wisdom were outstanding and put me completely at ease. They were absolutely charming and as you’d expect so funny with no airs or graces.
Russ Conway and Los Paraguayos were equally magnificent company and it was a genuine honour to share a stage with these legendary musicians even though we were miming! 🙂
To be in the presence of such genuine stars was truly humbling and I remember thinking at the time that I wished my parents had been there. One of those special days when you feel lucky to be alive and privileged to do what you do.
Just recently I had a flashback to my childhood days and had one of those connection moments where I realised a subconscious link was happening.
In the attic that was my playground as a very young boy, I remembered that my sister and I had various toys from Britain’s Ltd. I of course had toy soldiers but we also had farm animals and the Britain’s Floral
garden. Although I think it was intended for my sister I commandeered it on a regular basis and as well as creating battlefield scenarios with the various walls and divides I also took great delight in creating pristine imaginary gardens from the immaculate scored felted cardboard lawns, playing card size crazy paving and the hard brown plastic rectangular beds that were filled with soft rubber vegetables and flowers that you inserted using a single pinned miniature fork into the respondent holes to create immediate pop up flora .Add to that the gleaming white plastic greenhouse, pond features, garden furniture and the overhanging floppy rubber trees and my early designer instincts were fueled.
I was outside the other day when I realised I’d copied some of the Britains Floral garden elements into my present garden layout and have to say I was taken aback. The low walls that surround the house and mark out the boundaries between areas were particularly reminiscent of the Roy Selwyn-Smith models and even my ‘blue’ greenhouse had similar scaled dimensions.The big difference and where the mental jump occurred was the realisation that in Britains Floral Garden there were no weeds, nothing really grew , nothing needed divided, there were no pests or diseases.What I was staring at outside was nothing like a Britains Floral Garden. The reality of modern day, grown up gardening was a far cry from the sterile, plastic, manicured miniature version that was suspended in toy time with perfect eternal aesthetics. I now knew where the dream came from. Toys in the attic. http://www.brightontoymuseum.co.uk/index/Category:Britains_Floral_Garden
My garden is a daunting, demanding, ever engaging test of will with every day providing another challenge.
This weekend the orchard came to my attention and the plum and cherry trees that had gone uncared for over the last years and that couldn’t be pruned in the winter came on my radar.I thought they were plums and cherries but when I later discovered the “tree map” 3 of the 10 trees turned out to be a damson, a bluegage and a greegage. By pure accident I had decided to prune them at exactly the right time as when I guiltily googled the “do’s and dont’s” re pruning later I found out the perfect time was mid summer. I hit all the trees pretty hard as they were shading out swathes of light and especially from the apple hedge which is infested with wooly aphid https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=724
I’m hoping that by opening the canopies up and clearing all the nettles, sticky willow and other weeds at the base that have consumed the hedge it’ll let in air, sunlight and most importantly predators to curb the aphid population. Our new Stihl brush-cutter/ strimmer is proving a useful tool as there’s too much undergrowth and cover that I can’t get to with the mower and that’s acting as a refuge for an expanding tribe of rabbits that are munching their way through my plots and perennials.The rabbits are causing more damage than aphids just now and my airgun is useless and more of a scarer than an effective weapon against them. I can hear them sniggering in the long grass as I take aim over the garden wall parapet and let fly a useless pellet towards the distant horizon. Liam is quite happy at my many failed attempts as he has designated himself wildlife guardian and frowns on any violence towards anything but spiders and vine weevil. I have to admit that if I did somehow manage to hit one I’d be racked with guilt. I need to bring in a less sensitive man with a proper gun to despatch them so they can disappear and my conscience is only tarnished rather
With the garden split into a number of areas, the orchard, furthest away from the studio, tends to be neglected and this year I decided on a blitz. The apples were pruned hard in the winter and have nearly all managed to bear fruit as well as throw out tons of new water shoots that need to be brought under control in the summer pruning sessions.The pears are disappointing and one that I thought had been hit by Pear midge looks like it’s now been a victim of Jack Frost. All the fruits are blackened but as there’s no maggots inside as you get with the Midge it looks like a weather issue rather than an insect problem. The other pear trees are bare and I have them in the sights of my secateurs as a clever prune in the next weeks could sort them out for next year.
Out of the 5 cherry trees 2 are pretty decently laden with fruit, one has been hit by black aphids and is dripping with honeydew that the bees and wasps are loving and the other 2 are just disappointing and haven’t delivered.Again judicious pruning in the next weeks cutting back the new growth and training water shoots should pay back next year. The couple of trees that are dotted with cherries have had to be covered to stop birds ransacking them. A couple of 8m square nets arrived in the post a few days ago and were duly slung over the trees. Strangely the first and only bird that we inadvertently trapped and then released was a green woodpecker who was moving too frantically for Rab to get a photo
The plums are also mixed with the branches of one tree in particular breaking up under the weight of fruit. I had to cut off a lot of split limbs and really launch at the cuts to open it up. I’ll have to remove a lot of green plums as there’s no way the tree can bring that much fruit and if I’m going to get a decent crop then I need to thin them out and not be greedy.The rest of the trees were out of control and I had to be brutal with the saw. I remembered my old forestry training and made sure I dressed all the cuts with anti fungicidal sealant and washed all the cutting tools in disinfectant between trees so not to spread disease.
The reshaping has been drastic and I know the trees will survive although next year will need a lot of work on the water-shoots that will be sent out as instinctive survival behaviour. It may take 2 years to get a crop from some of them and that’s after a lot of TLC from my secateurs.
I learned so much about fruit trees this weekend and discovering the ‘orchard map’ made things a lot easier to deal with and understand what I have down there in the rows. It should have been looked after a lot better than it has since it was originally planted in 2009 and it’s only since Simone set up a small table and chair set we have spent more time down there getting away from the phones and the computer screens. Just the other day we had lunch together in the orchard and with the big hedges blanking out the big blustering South Westerly and reducing it to the sound of a loud ocean it was truly idyllic.It’s a great place to escape to and it should play a more important part in our drive to self sufficiency. Hopefully the new focus I got in the last days will pay dividends in the coming years.
I’ve still got a hell of a lot to learn and fights to fight. I discovered the pyramid caterpillars yesterday; wee bastards that create a pyramid cocoon to protect them from birds and then parachute into the apple tree canopy to defoliate a tree. Add them to the various moths and beetles, scabs and fungi and it’s a never ending war where the use of chemical weapons is a betrayal of spirit.
I was told that when diseases and insects attack it just takes a while for the natural balance to recover and for predators to emerge to take advantage of the food source. Interestingly enough in the last week or so I’ve seen an abundance of hoverflies on the local scene and as natural predators of aphids I welcome their appearance. I’ve bought in some allies and today was delivered 25 ladybirds who tonight will be parachuted into various places in the garden to begin their new occupation. I’m hoping that the new arrivals will breed quickly enough to help me out and God knows there’s enough food for them out there.
The problem is ants.
Now sit tight here. This isn’t ‘fake news’ and for those of you who aren’t gardening types this could win you a pub quiz prize or at the very least get a raised eyebrow and a moment’s silence as your mate’s bow down to your incredible natural knowledge.
Ants farm aphids.
Yes. Correct. Ants farm aphids.
Although ants do no harm to leaves, root systems or any part of a plant they do tuck away aphid eggs over winter and release the grown up mini monsters onto plants aphids love. The aphids gorge away secreting honeydew that ants love and thrive on and in return the ants kill any predators to protect their source of honeydew. That includes ladybirds, hoverflies and other insects. Ants are, in short aphid security and if you have a plant, as I do with 2 honeysuckle bushes infested with blackfly. you can find them patrolling the leaves seeking out aphid predators as they get their fix of honeydew.I knew they were clever but when did ants get into farming!?
And so now if I find an aphid infested plant I keep an eye open for the presence of ants and if I find them I drop a natural bomb on the trails that takes them out the loop before I parachute in any ladybirds.
The bird feeders I stocked up over the last winter have paid off and the avian population is acting as my RAF when it comes down to whittling away at the caterpillar population. Nematodes seem to have sorted out slugs and vine wevil but I still need some attachments of 7th Cavalry to deal with the blackfly and various aphids that I know will be teeming in the next weeks.
I lost all my turnips to grey cabbage aphid and perhaps ( crosses himself hopelessly) Cabbage Root Fly. 2 months waiting and thinning, feeding and nurturing and a bunch of sad stumps are attached to the greenery. I can only be disappointed and move on, rotating the plant types and hope for the best.
Onions have been fantastic in the main but the garlic ; even though planted in a “clean” bed has succumbed to “red rust”. The bulbs can be eaten but can’t be stored for long.
Carrots- great, Brussels sprouts and other brassica s holding up, salads wonderful and most everything else is moving on.
The greenhouse has ups and downs. Blossom End Rot on the tomatoes from bad watering technique lost me a bunch of toms but as with the plums there’s enough to fill the gaps and let’s go for quality not quantity.
Chillis and peppers are going to deliver and the cucumbers and courgettes are fab! We could just do with more space as it literally is a jungle in there.
There’s still more seed to sow as the season unbelievably moves into the second half plus extra time.There are a lot more perils and disappointments to be coped with.
We had a huge bonfire yesterday as the winter prunings and the new cuts became too much too handle. Getting rid of diseased branches and other material best off in the flames was a cleansing experience and a welcome pint in the Tyneside the perfect end to a day. It’s a never ending battle but as some of you know so worthwhile when you are sitting at table eating food you grew from seed and know exactly how it got there.
This week we will mostly be eating strawberries 🙂
it’s been a strange last couple of weeks as everything and nothing happened at the same time. It felt like I wasn’t doing anything some days then when I checked the “to-do” list end of day it was scrawled in ticks and added to with an extra “done” list!
The garden took up a lot of time and energy and I’ll deal with that in a “4 Green Fingers” Blog but the business and organisational side was more than just ticking away as a whole plethora of demands butted in.
Dealing with the ‘Misplaced’ releases has been a challenge as numbers changed and grew and I had to keep a firm hold on where our allowances from Parlophone were. Everything sold is covered and I’ve kept back some extras as safeties. I had to remove thew vinyl from sale a couple of times as there were questions on whether I could get extra units.The stock arrives next week and I’ll be scribbling away as Elspeth and Simone stick the units into the new packaging we’ve ordered in that should cover all the bases.We are well prepared.
Steve Vantsis left after a hugely successful time up here and although we didn’t get any writing done we conquered a couple of massive mountains and the rest regarding the remasters.I retired into research mode and burrowed my way into old ‘Company ‘ fanzines as the early 90’s aren’t covered on the website.
The entire era between 92 and 95 is very confusing to write about as ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’ twist around each other and are in some ways inseparable. Trying to unravel the 2 projects is proving difficult and although I don’t want to duplicate sleeve notes the threads are impossible to ignore.
It hasn’t helped that I am missing Company Fanzine 14 which came out between September 93 and August 94. If anyone has a copy handy can you post below and I will PM you. It’s an important period as that was when I moved on from Brian Lane and went back to self management as well as firing up the Dick Bros Record Company. I know most of it but there’s some dates and events I need to check out.The old fanzines have proved invaluable in filling in some memory gaps so if anyone can copy me with the relevant pages in Issue 14 I’d be grateful.
The 12 track Akai demos from the ‘Vigil’ and ‘Exile’ sessions are now being transferred but I am still looking for the missing reel from the ‘Suit’s’ masters.This is proving the most frustrating issue just now.
Calum Malcolm is set up for recording the 5 new songs for the ‘Mirror’ remaster and we will be working here the first week of October with Calum mixing both that session and the SAS live material in the following weeks.
All things going well ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and the ‘Suits’ remasters will be available at the beginning of December just as the UK tour starts.
Tour rehearsals are currently scheduled for the second and third week of November with a further couple of days and a potential warm up gig immediately before the tour.
I’ve had to accommodate Robin Boult who has sessions with Howard Jones around that time and I want him with us when we go out.
He’ll be joined by John Beck who is coming up to the studio in the summer to start writing with Steve Vantsis and I. Robin will also be involved in between his touring commitments. I’m really glad John is involved in the ‘Weltschmerz’ sessions as I’ve wanted to write with him for a while and I know his experience and huge creative talent will be invaluable to the project.
Yatta is up here in the next few weeks to go through the touring organisation as although he won’t be on the road with me he will be helping with all the background logistics.
Everything is coming together slowly but surely but in all honesty I could have done without the recent health issues.The beta blockers aren’t helpful and the sooner I am off them the better. It feels very unnatural to be calm in moments of turbulence.
It’s not helped that after waiting a month for contact I was told yesterday that my next appointment is scheduled for September 14th with another probable 3 month wait on any surgical remedy. As with my back I can’t hang around as it infringes on the tour. As I haven’t worked a stage since last April I can’t afford to hang around and once again I have to elect for private treatment. With a tax bill that smarted landing in my mailbox yesterday it sticks in my craw that I’m going to have to fork out again for medical treatment if I am going to get back to work.It would be easier to swallow if it was deductible but it’s just going to be yet another unexpected cost this year. Thankfully the Yang to balance it out came in the form of the ‘Misplaced’ issues which you will probably agree has a certain irony to it!
I’ve done a few interviews for Parlophone to support the project and i have to admit it’s been an extra bonus as I’m obviously talking about my own titles and projects as well as the ‘Misplaced’ releases. With recent full page adverts in Prog Magazine and another couple in Classic Rock due in the coming months my profile is bubbling away and the remasters and live albums are still slowly moving out in the post from here.They’ve been aided by a promo campaign in Germany with similar ads in Eclipsed and Goof Times magazines as well as a series of reviews across the board.It’s all been positive.
Mark Wilkinson and I have a very clear idea now on the imagery we want on the ‘Weltschmerz’ album and that is driving my own lyrical ideas. The string for the pearls is being fashioned.
It does feel like the quiet before the storm and there’s a very loud clicking of things falling into place across the board.
This last week Steve Vantsis and I have been digging in the tape cupboards, the attic and various other hidey holes for tapes that hold some sonic nuggets. We’ve been putting together the material for the next 2 planned remasters and in fact got quite ahead of ourselves.
Not only have we completed the 2 CD’s for ‘Suits’ to go with the intended remixed original CD but also the second CD for ‘Songs From the Mirror’ with the original remaster being CD1 and CD3 the SAS live recordings and the 5-6 new studio recordings scheduled for October.
While I was rooting around in boxes I came across a whole trove of other material I never knew I had including the ancient Akai MK20 12 track tapes from the ‘Vigil’ and ‘Internal’ writing sessions and a rack of ‘Suits’ demos as well as early run throughs of ‘Songs from the Mirror’ material.
I also opened up the live DAT cases for the first time since I moved into The Studio in 2001 and discovered hours of material from across the years.
Most of the tours and the line ups are pretty well covered but some of the quality is dubious. A lot of the 90-91 period was covered by the first of the Official Live Bootleg’ series that funded the start up of the Dick Bros label in 94 and those titles contain most of the best versions of the material I’m looking at.
However we have found alternative diamonds in the rough and have built up a great selection of material particularly from ‘Vigil’ and ‘Internal’ as they offered the most choices being the oldest albums.
The 12 Track tapes head South on Monday for transfer to WAV formats so we should be able to discover what we have and can work with by the end of this month.
One downer is that I cannot find one of the master reels for ‘Suits’ that James Cassidy wants. And it had to be the one with the ‘Lady Let it Lie’ and ‘Mr 1470’ multi tracks!
I’m still hopeful and my head gets twisted every night trying to figure out where it could be as there’s no way it could have been thrown out.
Apart from the extra ‘Songs From the Mirror’ material that won’t be together until the end of October and the potential remix of ‘the ‘Suits’ album Steve and I should have all the other content for the 4 remasters ready by the end of next month.
Dave Barras is starting the interview sessions for the ‘Vigil’ album documentary in the next weeks but that particular title ( with ‘Internal Exile’) is not intended for release until next February/March to support the ‘Weltschmerz’ album recording.
I have a lot of work at hand with 4 sets of sleeve notes to write in that time and another wade through the photo archives to get material for Mark Wilkinson to work with.
My cloth is cut.
Just to let you know the office will be closed from tonight until Friday 16th June and we will not be processing any orders.
Sorry for any disappointment but Elspeth is on holiday and Simone is visiting family in Germany this next week. I am working with Steve Vantsis in the studio.and hopefully creating some sparks to fire up the ‘Weltschmerz’ writing process.
Another SAS show added in Sturminster Newton at the Exchange the night before the Portsmouth Guildhall gig on the 12th. Ticket details on the website on the attached poster
I’m sorry to say I have to stop the preordering on both the ‘Misplaced Childhood ‘ deluxe versions for now as Parlophone cannot guarantee me numbers I want and we are now sold out of our ‘allowance’. I’ve been told that perhaps I can get more if there is remaining stock left over from European sales. Needless to say I am unimpressed by all this.There’s still 50 days till the release date :-0
With this being Facebook and all; well of fake news and font of conjecture I thought I’d nip this in the bud in case some people got genuinely upset. Despite some rumours filtering out I’ve not had a heart attack and am most definitely not dead yet.
Last night I was in the Royal Edinburgh hospital with Simone just after 11pm. That morning I’d had breathing difficulties in the gym and on the way to the car. On the Sunday I had the same problems shortly after potting up a tree for my Mum and had to hang onto the Volvo for a few minutes to catch myself.
Simone and I had been having a quiet night in front of the TV (‘American Gods’) and she brought out her blood pressure monitor as she was concerned. My blood pressure was relatively normal but my pulse rate was 153. She redid the test a number of times and the pulse rate never fell below 143 while my blood pressure remained pretty stable.
A call to the NHS hotline later we were on our way to the accident and emergency room in a taxi having been told to be there in the next hour by the call centre. The A and E dept were waiting on me and after a fairly short while I was hooked up to and ECG machine and bloods being drawn from an arm that was soon to have the first of three bags of fluid attached to a valve pinned in my vein.
It was an unusually busy Tuesday night but not overwhelming. The staff were really helpful and eventually found us a curtain walled room which would be my bolt hole for the next couple of hours.Simone didn’t want to leave but had been told she couldn’t stay in the ward overnight and as her son Liam was at home and had school commitments only hours later she had no choice. She left at 2am just after I was wheeled back from X Ray. I admit to putting on a very brave face as we said our goodbyes.
I was eventually moved to a dark ward and the beeping machine I was plugged into said my pulse rate was still 144. It wouldn’t move below 140 until 2 the next afternoon. More blood was taken and I was told it was to check for blood clots. This sent a shiver of fear through me as it was a clot that took out my Dad just over a year ago. At the time I had no understanding of why they had to check for blood clots. My head was birling and not in a good way.
Again and again I’d be visited by doctors and registrars all saying the same thing. They had no idea what was causing this but from the ECG’s they knew I had a ‘fluttering’ heart and the valves were slightly out of synch.I didn’t know what that meant.
The good news was that all the tests for liver, kidney, blood infections, lungs etc etc came back negative and eventually even the clot scan was cleared.
It was a restless night. I was woken twice for tests and consultations and both times revealed us no further forward.
The weird thing was I felt fine and all this talk about fibrillating hearts I couldn’t quite relate to. I tried to sleep as much as I could under the thin sheets. I was still wearing my jumper in bed as I hadn’t thought of bring anything in, not expecting an overnight stay. My teeth were furry.
I was rudely woken by a gaggle of various nursing entities who were listening to the Malaysian woman interrogate a still drowsy patient who was repeating the same build up of events, symptoms and experiences as he had the last 5 or so times.The Registrar in charge came across as slightly surreal given my semi conscious state and I heard her tell me they would be considering giving me electric shocks to knock the heart back into normal rhythm and get me singing and dancing again. No sooner had they all flooded into my space than they all left. TBH I was none the wiser as to my current state and the remedy required
It wasn’t until the cardiologist arrived that everything became a lot clearer.. I apologise here as I cannot remember his name as he was the star of my otherwise weary and battle fatigued existence in the eternal waiting room.
I hadn’t had a heart attack, I was remarkably healthy and fit, I had a condition that was relatively common and can appear for no known reason. The electric shock therapy was a short term solution and could lead to a recurrence of a more dangerous type of the condition and there was another long term option involving a minor operation carried out through veins and arteries with great results on very decent odds – and he could probably pull it together in the next 2 months.
He told me the greatest danger with the condition, which I now know as atrial fibrillation (AF) was with blood clots as the fast moving valves don’t clear the heart chamber correctly and clots can be formed and washed out into the blood vessels. Now it started to make sense.
He made me feel a lot more at ease and I knew what I was facing. I was prescribed anti coagulators and stronger Beta blockers one of which I’d taken earlier and seen my heart rate slide to below 90 an hour after the dosage.
Although I wouldn’t have chosen to hear all this my attitude was that I now knew why I’d been having so many restless nights as my heart was flying while my body tried to sleep. I could rest a bit easier knowing that those shallow breathing occasions with chest thumping beats weren’t an oncoming cardiac arrest. A lot of subconscious Fear got swept away and I knew what I was dealing with. So a huge thanks to the man whose name I won’t forget when I see him next time.I hope it’s not too long.
The last ‘specialist’ I had to talk with was the pharmacist. He was a cool, non assuming, friendly bloke and he put the wind up me as he went into great detail of the dangers of the anti coagulant I was going to have to learn to rely on. I have to carry a card telling any potential 3rd parties who could be dealing with me in a potential accident that I did not have the ability to naturally stop bleeding and was borderline hemophiliac. The slightest cut will bleed freely and any knocks , especially head ones have to be taken very seriously as internal bleeding could become a fatal problem. This was the only part of the “new bargain” that caused me concern.The Beta blockers were pretty straightforward and would probably deliver me dreamless sleep for a while as my body can finally rest and I can wake refreshed in the morning.
I could finally get home.
All I had to do was pick up my meds and the paperwork and get a taxi to the Studio. Just as I was about to pull on my jacket I remembered that I still had the valve in my arm. The nurse duly attended, removed the needle, bandaged and taped the entry point and I pulled on my jacket.
A few minutes later I was standing at the reception desk and felt the warm wet trickle down my forearm under my jacket. Only 5 minutes after being told about the dangers of the anti coagulant there I was standing dripping blood onto the ward floor from my jacket sleeve. The nurses cleaned me up, I apologised for the mess and pressing the small bandage tightly onto the wound thanked the staff for looking after me through the night.
I could still feel my wet jumper sleeve as we drove through the sun strewn East Lothian countryside back to our home. This was going to be yet another new challenge.I’ll remember the rules next time.
The mobile pinged as messages came through of sympathy. I’d been recognised by quite a few people as I was trundled through departments on a wheelchair. Quite a few of the porters knew me as did some of the nursing staff.One guy ‘Steve’ (?) who I met while waiting on a scan was an Uber fan with tickets to Glasgow, the remasters and an FB knowledge. He was a really nice guy and we talked briefly about predicaments as we sat on our respective wheelchairs. (He had an horrendous lung infection and carried an oxygen bottle like a trophy). I’m always ‘Derek’ in any hospital but it’s ‘Fish’ that’s always obviously recognised.
Funny moment was when I asked the technician from one of the heart scanners for the sound recordings on a stick as I thought they could work somewhere on ‘Weltschmerz’. She looked at me strangely and then said’ I knew you weren’t a Derek, you looked like someone else I know.”
The sound of cascading pennies and laughter as the 2 porters with my wheelchair chimed in
“He’s Fish”! We were just talking about him in the staff room!”
And the texts kept coming in the taxi.
I would perhaps have not written this post but for a memory I had when I stepped off a boat after a swamp tour in Florida in 2002 to face a barrage of calls from the UK as the rumour had taken hold that I’d died in a car crash. Some close friends were seriously upset and it was strange calling people up to declare I was still very much alive.
As I said I decided to nip this in the bud before it grew legs.
I’m ok. The shoulder is well on it’s way to healing and I will miss the gym sessions over the next couple of months. I’ll be totally ready for stage work in December. The back is also so much improved and my general fitness is better than it’s been for a while. The big picture looks great!
I didn’t have a heart attack and am not at Death’s door yet.
I have a treatable atrial fibrullation that means my heart is working in weird time signatures just now. What more would you expect from a Progressive rock singer! 🙂
Before I go I just want to thank all the nursing staff and technicians at the Royal in Edinburgh who looked after me. You guys deserve a lot more appreciation and support for making an incredibly difficult job look so easy and still carry on smiling.
And to my lady who got a Bear into a taxi after convincing him that something had to be done after recognising that there was a serious problem. There could have been and because of you there isn’t. Thanks for being here darling and for looking after me. Love you so ganz arg xx
I had a visit today from George Kerevan my local East Lothian MP with his good lady Angela and Chris who’s helping his campaign to be re-elected here. We’d been introduced by a mutual friend a month or so ago and had spent a marvellous Sunday afternoon talking politics, gardening and film making over coffee and cake.
The conversations continued in earnest today and it was interesting to get his take on all things currently political. Simone again delivered the home cooked Rhubarb cake for which George is rather partial to and he took a decent sized chunk away with him to his next meeting 🙂
He’s a very interesting and intelligent guy as well as being great company and we have similar views on a lot of topics as some of you probably already know.
I’d promised him some seedlings and plants for his garden but understandably he’s caught up with campaigning just now after the general election call took everyone by surprise and all his time is being spent traversing the county rallying votes.
The biggest problem is obviously voter fatigue after so many elections and referendums in such a short time. I genuinely felt for him as this next one in a few weeks is hugely important and requires a big turnout across the spectrum to give the result credibility.
The problem up here in Scotland is that the focus has to remain on Brexit and the settlement deal with the EU. This election has nothing to do with any future independence issues but solely has to do with the bargaining power that the Scottish government has in negotiations.
With a 60% vote given by the Scottish people in the last referendum to remain in the EU it’s obvious the present situation is not democratically to our liking and it’s in other party’s interest to muddy the waters between independence and the Brexit challenge to confuse and divide.
There’s the as expected, ‘project fear’ pronouncements and bamboozling “facts” and figures being bandied around by “experts” that no one really seems to have a grip on and that leads to a confused state where people sleepwalk into a nightmare reality.
I appreciate it’s difficult to find the fight after so many battles and so many disappointments but this is important and no matter who you support you need to get up and out to vote on the day. Shake of any apathy, open your eyes, listen to the arguments and read what is being said between the lines.
I’ll finish with a wee story.
I was in the gym today on the endless road that is the walking machine facing the TV screen and reading the subtitles on SKY news as Theresa May launched the Tory manifesto.
I watched her eyes flit coldly from the script on pages before her to the assembled devotees and the cameras. As I read the text and the summary on the screen I couldn’t but help but think back to the 80’s and other offers and promises given by another female Prime minister who went on to treat Scotland with contempt after she achieved absolute power.
I was reminded of a story I’d used in a lyric on ’13th Star’ where a turtle, about to swim across a river, was approached by a scorpion asking for help to get across to the other side.
The turtle was suspicious and said to the scorpion “but you’re a scorpion and you’ll kill me”.
The scorpion told the turtle that if he helped he wouldn’t kill him and that it was in his interest to get to the other bank.
The turtle agreed to carry him over but half way across the scorpion stung the turtle. The turtle turned around and said to the scorpion as the poison took hold.
“But why would you do this? You’ve killed us both as you will now drown”
The scorpion replied ” I couldn’t help it, it’s in my nature”
And I looked at Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and the others and I could see the other side.
This is my personal opinion, my take on it all and I appreciate many will disagree with me. Don’t please argue the independence issues if you’re going to reply as this is not what this general election is about. The vote in Scotland is about getting the best deal for this country through being able to have a say in the Brexit negotiations and don’t be conned into thinking otherwise. It’s a country with its own important needs and issues and we need a voice speaking on our behalf and not being dictated to by someone who continually disregards that a large majority of the people here wanted to stay in the EU.
On Thursday 8th June, no matter who you support just make sure you make the effort to use your vote on the day and give this election the seriousness it deserves and a turnout that gives the eventual result the credibility it needs to show that we aren’t an apathetic and tired nation and that we have a genuine interest in commanding our future.
The cascade of splashing water in the Japanese Garden pond can lull me into a trance sometimes. It’s slightly masked by the water margin foliage that’s doubled in recent weeks but that sound with a breeze whispering the maple outside the window can be so calming even when there’s a storm blowing though the office.
The big rains finally came the other day and it was the first night in a while where I didn’t have to wander the raised beds and containers copying my shoulder physio exercises with a hose in my outstretched arm. The temperatures have kept me on nervous edge and even today when I was planning on docking the outdoor tomato plants in the beds and checking the techniques online I read a warning to hold off until the end of the month. Between those, Simone’s celeriac seedlings and the leeks my patience has been slightly tested as I wait to sink them into the well prepared raised beds.
Last night I planted out a mixture of cabbages in the ‘Fence bed’ that last year was used for the first time and grew me a decent herd of turnips. It was planned for the leeks but a bit of Google gardening had warned me about planting out the Chinese cabbage in a bed that last year had held the purple sprouting broccoli (PSB) They may be raised beds and the soil/ compost bulked up every year but not following good crop rotation and especially with a brassica that’s prone to the ugly club root disease could provide long term problems as it takes years for the fungus to die off. That particular bed is already in quarantine as I stupidly grew garlic and leeks 2 years in a row and picked up a nasty dose of Leek rust that also takes 3 years to kill off. I should have put potatoes in it this year but the PSB took ages to mature and again my impatience got the better of me and I planted up the tatties in another bed.
Crop rotation is putting plants that aren’t related into successive beds to avoid building up of diseases and benefitting the soil. That’s the simple explanation and in fact it’s a lot more complex and frustrating trying to keep the cycles going as certain crops mature at different times and sometimes it feels like I am organising the deck of an aircraft carrier in a war zone as one crop is lifted out and others land from the ‘Purdie Bunker’ cold frames. Raised beds can help out as soil is replaced and organic matter added every season but there’s still a chance of an accident as happened with the Leek Rust that wiped out the garlic in that particular bed 2 years ago.
On finding out that the Chinese cabbage was particularly susceptible I elected at the last minute to put it in the ‘Fence bed’. After setting in 20 plants I realised that was going to have to net it against cabbage white butterflies and decided to add the Savoy cabbages. They’re planted a bit close and in the 5 metre by 1 metre bed there’s about 45 plants in total. The Alaskan Savoy’s are a first this year and grow well into winter. They are a beautiful grey and blue colour and look magnificent when fully grown. They are in the middle row with All Year Round Savoys at the back. They’ll be hitting the pot in autumn so the space should open out for the Alaskans. The Chinese cabbage is a favourite of ours for stir fries and should be first out the bed as long as it doesn’t go into shock after transplanting as we should have sowed it directly into the soil.
I find a lot of good ideas come from intuition and I was pleased to find that both the savoys and Chinese cabbages don’t need that much direct sun and actually benefit from shorter days in full light. The ‘Fence bed’ has the southern side blocked by a panelled fence but after about 3 in the afternoon it catches the sun as it starts to sink. It should in theory be a perfect site for them.
So the ‘Fence bed’ is packed out, the quarantine bed may take the celeriac and I have to wait on the early potatoes taking off and out before I lay in the leeks which still need to grow on a bit in their modules. That leaves me with one 2 x 2 metre bed free and it looks destined for greyhound cabbages which will go in with fingers crossed as it had brassicas in 2 years ago although the soil has been well bulked up with new filling
I still have PSB to sow as well as more kale and there’s a crowd of dwarf French beans needing to be sown including our favourite Borlottis. The peas are now out in the ’50 pence bed’ where I’ve used a planting technique I read about in #Grow Your Own magazine. I’ve already used it in the ‘Ruin Bed’ by the old building that belongs to the Main House.
It’s called the “3 Sisters” method and involves using sweet corn in small blocks with runner beans planted at their roots providing nitrogen and squashes and pumpkins between the blocks to provide ground cover against weeds. It’s an ancient growing techniques used by native American Indians for thousands of years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)
I didn’t follow the planting rules exactly but think I’ve managed to find an imitation that should do the same job. The ‘Ruin bed’ has sweetcorn that’s been grown in 2 sowing sessions from the greenhouse but the ’50 Pence bed’ was planted direct with seed. The squashes are ‘Hokkaidos’ and the pumpkins ‘Kakai’, well known for their seeds. The peas in the ‘50p’ bed were grown in peat pots before planting out to give them a better chance and are in with the broadbeans and more peas sown direct into the ground last week. I’m interested to see if and how this works.
The ‘50p’ bed is earmarked as a strawberry bed this autumn as the present one although now flowering is getting tired after over 5 years of repeated use. That’s the new brassica bed next year.
I found a site that provides on line garden design and planning including rotation guidelines and crop suggestions and as my head is birling trying to keep the crops spinning it may prove useful as I set my eyes on next year.
Another big job is moving on the chillies and peppers in the greenhouse as the roots are starting to grow out the small peat pots. It’s the right time for the move up and I’ll be giving away a lot of plants this year as I have as always completely over sown. The temperatures rising and now the focus returns to the greenhouse as it has to be arranged to accommodate a large crowd of pots and containers. This is its last year in the present state as it’s starting to fall apart after 14 years of loyal service and despite coats of paint it’s all getting a bit shoogly and ramshackled. The idea is that this autumn/ winter, if we can afford to finance it, to extend it another 2 metres or so and give us more space to work in and grow some other indoor plants we can’t grow outside up here.
For now it serves its purpose and the 4 cucumbers we have in grow bags are already setting flowers and forming fruits with one of the ‘Longfellows’ already having to have the lead shoot snipped just as it reached the roof. The tomatoes I always have angst about and am never quite confident or sure how to deal with them. It’s a science unto itself and I just have to go with a mixture of Google gardening and instinct.
It’s a full on endeavour just now and Simone and I find ourselves out there well after 8pm still trying to deal with demands from the Green. With rain and sun finding a balance now there’s slightly less worry on that particular weather front and the rainwater harvester and water butt have taken on some fresh intake with the new pump doing its job well so far. Having new hose points meant that Liam and I have had our water fights and Simone gets a bit annoyed when the battle enters the kitchen but everything is pretty harmonious here in the Shire.
What made our day was the arrival of the herb plants from Germany today that we’ve been waiting on for months. Simone was overjoyed at finally being able to plant out her own herb garden that she’s been planning since Balcony days in Karlsruhe. It’s more of an apothecary garden and not filled with just common garden kitchen herbs. Although the thymes, sages, mints etc are all present and correct the plants that arrived today are all pretty exotic with most of them from Chinese and Asian backgrounds. More on them in another post as we wait for them to root on down and reach for the skies.
Its perfect timing as we both returned to the gym for the first time since pre shoulder operation in February and with these herbs designated for super healthy smoothies together with our vast spinach, beetroot, carrot and kale harvests coming on line it should be a buzzing summer.