Sunsets on Empire, Raingods With Zippos, Fellini Days and Field of Crows are now available in the Fish Shop!
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.
I received this on an e mail this Parlophone today which puts a bit of a new pressure on us all as we both have to gauge the pre orders.
“Just so you are aware, this is a limited product so we are only doing one factory run! Once it’s gone, it’s gone – as they say! ”
I am ordering them from the label as not being shrink wrapped in order to save time when I sign them. Just so you know.
A few people have been asking about why they haven’t had confirmations of their purchases on fishheadsclub.com
It seems there have been a few occurrences where orders have been taken but due to the switch over of the server the e mail confirmations weren’t automatically sent out. John Reid arriving at the weekend as we are having a couple of days brainstorming for the new web site and meeting with designers.When he is here he is going into the mail order files and intends to send out a blanket e mail covering everyone who’s ordered and we can find out if there are any missing orders.It should iron out any problems. I’m pretty confident everything is ok this end and any potential problems can be sorted when he is here.
There have also been a couple of questions on the security of the store.The security certificate hadn’t been acknowledged and wasn’t showing on the URL. The site however is secure and the certificate will now be showing on the shop.
On another note we are also looking at the problem we have with some returns due to wrong addresses being given or requests for signed deliveries being sent back as there’s no one to accept them. This is a particular problem in Poland as packages move from UK Royal Mail to other delivery services who immediately send packages back to us rather than store them at depots and leave messages of failed delivery with the intended recipients. We cannot afford to cover the cost of resending items and will have to come up with a solution to this.
We can send tracking information but it’s no use if the service it moves to doesn’t provide any more info when it enters Poland.
Please make sure when you give your delivery address that it’s valid and correct and that you have added the correct e mail address or contact details as well with your order.It all helps keep our service to you as slick and fast as possible and racking up office hours chasing down missing orders. We’re always trying to do our best to provide a great service as your help and support is sincerely appreciated
Just to let you know I’ve booked this in as a one off on September 6th. It’s the same day as SAS rehearsals and as I had a night free in the ‘Big Smoke’ it made sense to take up the offer from my old friend Steve Blacknell who you may remember interviewed me over my record collection for the Old Grey Whistle Test at my old gaff in Aylesbury years ago. I won’t be playing on the night but it’ll be a 2 hour interview/ conversation with both Steve and audience members and I’ll be signing stuff after.There’s only 70 tickets available so it will be quite an intimate affair and as it’s Steve’s birthday on the night I reckon it could get pretty loose 🙂
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going about things recently and trying to improve on how I deal with my career especially with regards to social media. Although I’m a reasonably prolific writer and there are a lot of subject matters the content isn’t really getting out beyond the converted.
After discussion with John Reid, who deals with all things IT for me we have decided to completely change our set up starting with the website.
I recognise that there should be a lot more content and interaction and we need to get people to delve around and discover not only what’s happening now but also my history. Amalgamating the old ‘Company’ website with the new one is a must. I use the old blogs and tour histories as well as the discography a lot when compiling the re masters and even I was I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going about things recently and trying to surprised at just how much is over there on that web site.
John and I are already in discussion with third parties to help us out and our aim is to get a completely new all singing and dancing website together in the Summer so that we can reach out to a wider audience and get them interested in what I’ve done and what I am doing.
I also have to get refocused on the next re masters and have decided that ‘Suits’ and ‘Songs from the Mirror’ are up next. I want to schedule these for late October so they are ready for when I go out on the December UK tour. I’ll be working on ’Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’ and ‘Internal Exile’ throughout that time and aiming to get these released next March. As they are the oldest albums there’s a lot more material to sift through and especially with ‘Vigil’ a lot of options to take it to a higher plane regarding content.
With ‘Suits’ I have been in discussion with the original producer James Cassidy and he is very much up for a complete remix and revisit of the material. Not only have I discovered the original master tapes but also a collection of multi-track demos from that period. It all depends on cost and the quality of the tape but I am confident that we can create something very special from the material.
I want to have ‘Songs from the Mirror’ follow in the same 3CD hardback packaging as the other re masters to continue the theme but there isn’t as much material to choose from. The 1993-4 tour was pretty much captured on the ‘Sushi’ album (since deleted) but there wasn’t that much material from ‘Songs from the Mirror’ played live. There are a couple of cover versions that can be included but I’m still short of 3 CD’s. After a discussion with Spike Edney he’s given me access to some SAS band material and as I am playing with them in September we are going to set up a live recording of about 5 tracks at Portsmouth Guildhall and at the proposed warm shows and rehearsals. That still leaves me with space on disc 3 so the idea is to record about half a dozen new cover versions here at the studio in the summer when I have a band together working on the new ‘Weltschmerz’ album. It gives me a chance to try out new musicians in the studio and to play around with ideas at the same time. Songs by Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, John Martyn, The Who, Elton John and some others are already up for consideration and that would give me a re mastered album with some hefty and hopefully attractive content.
With ‘Vigil’ I have a lot of options and will be interested to getting feedback on this. Back in the day I shot a lot of footage on Super 8 film. I have coverage of the move here, the first writing and band rehearsals as well as Townhouse studio and then the touring itself. David Barras and I will be going over this material with a view to perhaps putting together a film documentary of that period. As always it all depends on the cost of creation and whether I can cover it with sales. As EMI own the copyright to this album and the associated studio material I have to license it and get their ok on the finished product. I would have preferred to have owned it but it’s not for sale. As I said with it being the oldest solo album there’s tons of live stuff never before released as well as acoustic versions from the Fishheads club tour and beyond. There’s a possibility of putting together a multi disc version bigger than the others in the re master catalogue. One idea is to go for a super dooper deluxe version with a standard 3 disc version as the other cheaper option. The same could be used for ‘Internal Exile’. If there’s enough interest in this type of format then I can seriously look at the possibilities.
The question of vinyl is repeatedly asked. The problem is that vinyl is very expensive to produce in small numbers and the outlay just now cannot be justified. Having thousands of pounds worth of stock sitting there when I need to fund the new album and the rest of the re masters can’t be justified just now especially since my health issues have meant I had to delay all my touring activities this year.
Once I have the new website up and running I’ll create a section where people can offer commitment to buying the vinyl albums. Once I get an idea of numbers then I can commit to a production run. That seems the most sensible way of putting it all together and making it finally happen.
By next Summer I’d like to have the ‘Weltschmerz’ album released and the entire solo catalogue available as re masters ( apart from ‘Feast’ and ‘’13th Star’) with a website that fits the bill that I can populate with material from the studio and the following tour.
There’s more than enough to do in the following months and this is the plan I would like to follow as a guideline.
I’m genuinely interested in your feedback on all these ideas and once the new web site is online I will be looking for other contributors and involvement from you the fans.
Thanks for supporting me with all the re masters and releases and I’ll do my very best to maintain the quality and the pricing as well as the service provided by our mail order shop.
It’s going to be an interesting next few months of that I am very sure.
Take care and stay alive
As announced yesterday the new deluxe versions of ‘Misplaced Childhood’ are now available to pre order from the fishheadsclub.com shop.
I’ve kept the prices especially on the vinyl as keen as I can and all pre orders will be signed by me.
With the 4x 180g vinyls in a box with the booklet the postage is eye watering with some options and we will be swallowing the costs of the actual packaging ourselves. We have a new cardboard box we are confident will stand the rigours of the postal services and get your order to you in perfect condition.
Please remember that these titles will not be available until 21st July so even if you get a notice that your order is completed it will not be sent out until that date onward and all orders will be processed in sequence, first come first served.
If you are placing mixed orders, for example remasters and the ‘Misplaced Childhood’ deluxe versions the other elements will be dispatched as we receive that order and the deluxe order will be sent out after the 21st July.
We have enough time to prepare packaging to be filled with the albums when they arrive here so we should service orders pretty quickly after that date as some of you already know from your experience with the ‘Farewell to Childhood” live CD/DVD.
Your support on this is sincerely appreciated here
Thanks for being out there
Having arrived late in the game and being out the loop a bit with the preorders I’ve decided that I’ll keep the prices the same as the Marillion shop at £59.99 (£49.99 outside Europe) for the vinyl and £29.99 (£24.99 outside Europe) for the CD deluxe set.Only difference is that I’ll sign the preorders bought from fishheadsclub.com. I’ll get the mail order info up tomorrow.
This has just been announced today by Parlophone Records.
I’ve decided to stock this in our mail order shop and it will be going up for pre order in the next couple of days. It’s a pretty stunning set and I’m personally glad this album is getting the treatment it deserves. I’ll be keeping the prices as keen as I can as I’m sure there will be some madly expensive numbers out there in retail land. Your support on these titles is appreciated as I have to pre order myself from Parlophone.
It’s quite ironic that these are coming out alongside my own ‘Farewell to Childhood’ release and with the May issue of Prog Magazine featuring ‘Clutching at Straws’ there’s a wild synchronicity around.
I’ll announce the pre order on fishheadsclub.com as soon as I have more information.
MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (DELUXE EDITION) will be released on July 21 as a 4CD/1BluRay set and 4LP boxed set version.
The CD/Blu-ray set includes the original album newly remastered and a 5.1 surround remix by acclaimed producer Steven Wilson. It’s accompanied by a previously unreleased concert from Holland that features a performance of Misplaced Childhood in its entirety, plus demos and rarities remastered exclusively for this set.
The BluRay contains promo videos, and an album documentary, as well as high resolution and 5.1 Surround Sound mixes of the album. The entire set is presented in a case-bound book that includes a 60-page booklet with liner notes written by rock writer Dave Everley.
The vinyl version of MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (DELUXE EDITION) features the newly remastered version of the original album and the entire concert from Holland. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl, the four LPs are presented in a 12” x 12” lift-top box, completing the set is a beautiful 24 page booklet which contains replica tour program and extensive writing on the history of the album and how it came to be.
Discs two and three contain an October 1985 concert recorded Live at the Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in the city of Utrecht. The performance includes the entire Misplaced Childhood album along with several songs from the band’s earlier albums, like “Script For A Jester’s Tear” and “Fugazi.” All of the live recordings are previously unreleased except for “Chelsea Monday,” which was the B-side to “Heart Of Lothian” (The full concert is included with the MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (DELUXE EDITION) LP set).
The BluRay disc contains an hour-long documentary about the album and promo videos for album singles “Lavender”, “Kayleigh”, “Lady Nina” and “Heart Of Lothian.” Also featured is the original album remixed by Steven Wilson in 5.1 Surround Sound and the 2017 Remaster in high resolution 96kHz 24 bit. Rounding out the disc are Wilson’s Surround Sound and Stereo remixes of “Lady Nina,” the B-side to “Kayleigh.”
I was saddened to hear the news today that a dear old friend passed away suddenly yesterday. Les Payne produced Marillion’s first demo at Roxon studios in July 1981 and gave us our first experience in a recording studio. We went on to become friends and he was immensely proud of his involvement in the very early stages of the band. We kept in touch over the years and I played a couple of gigs with him at the Pegasus in the very late 80’s. My move to Scotland meant we rarely saw each other after that but every now and again I’d hear his eternally cheery voice on the phone. He was an outstanding individual with an overwhelmingly positive personality that always drew a smile from any stranger in his company. His commitment to his songwriting, studio work and performances were inspiring and despite so many hard knocks and disappointments he never lost sight of his goals and his optimism was incredible.Always willing to give advice and help to young bands and musicians he played a part in the rise of many talents. He never made the big time but leaves a legacy of worthy songs and a memory that will always be cherished.An honest and decent man in every respect he will be missed by many and especially in the Aylesbury and Bucks community of musicians where he was a legend. My heart goes out to his family and friends at this tragic loss. Les Payne RIP
My Mum handed me a box of really old cassette tapes I’d given her over the early band years including a couple of the original and now legendary Roxon Studio demos we recorded over the 18th and 19th July 1981 with Les Payne producing.
We’d met Les through his strong association with the Friars Club and were introduced to him by the promoter David Stopps.We saved up enough money from gigs to pay for the demo time ( I think it was about £400 but Les gave us a deal).
It was my first ever time in a “proper” recording studio and I was pretty excited and daunted at the same time. The line up was Steve Rothery guitar, Mick Pointer drums, Diz Minnitt on bass and Brian Jelliman, keyboards.
We were pretty pleased with the outcome and thought the world was ours. Listening back now my vocals were a trifle shabby and that high octave register very unnatural.The arrangements on the demos that were rejected by every major record company at the time were pretty much the same as on the ‘Script For A Jester’s Tear’ album and with ‘Garden Party’ reaching number 16 in the UK charts nearly a couple of years later I admit to having a chuckle sometimes.
I still have the rejection letter from EMI 🙂 “Rinky Dinky Doo” 🙂
Les, thanks for all your help back then and I’ll always retain a happy memory from those days. RIP mate.
After the rush of growth in a mini heatwave at the beginning of April it feels like everything has gone into slow motion in the garden.I had to get the fleeces and covers out a week or so ago when a frost bit down on us and the cold winds and low daily temperatures combined with minimal rain has meant unseasonal watering. Yes , you read that right, it’s not been raining in this part of Scotland.
When I had the extension built a couple of years ago I installed a rainwater harvester which meant I could collect water from the studio gutters and store it in a 3000 litre underground tank to use in the garden. I got a Hydroforce pressure sensitive pump with the system which meant that when I turned on the tap outside the pump kicked in and I got a decent PSI on the hose and more than adequate to water the raised beds.Being in Scotland and with accommodating heavens the pump didn’t undergo particularly heavy usage. All was well until last Autumn when everything stopped working.I checked everything and ended up sending the pump unit back to the suppliers.Within days I was told the pump was irreparable as it was an internal electrical fault, that the guarantee had expired 2 months before and that I would have to lash out £356 for a new one. Needless to say I wasn’t impressed and with few options open had to bite the bullet and get a new unit. I hung off until last week as I obviously didn’t need it during the winter and if it has a working life like the last one I wanted my money’s worth.As with all things electrical and “complicated” these days it seems the stories of “planned obsolescence” have a ring of truth. I expected more for the big bang in this particular buck and as a unit advertised as being so sturdy and dependable with rigorous factory checks before delivery at least something that could be repaired rather than written off for an electrical fault.Rab , my trusty gardening accomplice was even less impressed as he had to descend head first into the tank to retrieve it and today had to re install the unit and deal with foul smelling water that had been lying in the tank for the last 8 months.I had to hold his legs while he went into the murky depths and thankfully he managed to link it up without throwing up. We now have a working system and I just hope it lasts longer than the last one or there will be two distinctly unhappy gardeners up here.
As I said it’s been pretty dry up here in East Lothian and my new weather station continually reminds me of how little rain has fallen and how cloudy it’s been in recent weeks.I do like watching the wind speeds and directions on the indoor monitor and the little windmill on the outdoor unit looks important and professional.However it’s more of a toy than meteorologically dependable and the frost alarms went off a few times when the websites said “stand down”. It’s always edgy at this time of year and a bout of laziness can be disastrous and ruin weeks of hard work. The “Purdie Bunker”, the huge cold frame Rab put together has proved it’s worth and it’s currently full of young tender plants from the greenhouse that are now hardening off.I’m trying to be as patient as possible and not sticking stuff out in the ground until I feel more confident in the weather.I’ve enough reams of fleece and polythene to put up a good defense against Jack Frost but the laying out of barriers is a major endeavor.
In the last week or so I planted out over 150 perennial bulbs to go with the 100 or so plug plants in the ‘Longshanks’ bed which is about 20 m long. Between them and the dahlias that had to go in a few days ago it’s a big gamble and on the last frost warning the back garden looked like a scene from a Gothic horror film set as everything was draped in white cloth in the darkness.
I sowed more than enough tomato, pepper and chilli seed this year with the intent of trying to grow plants outdoors for the first time. I’d tried some in grow bags last year but late sowing after the ‘Childhood’ tour in May and a lack of TLC meant they didn’t result in much. This year I am planting up the original tomato beds by the greenhouse which have been set up with compost, manure and black plastic sheeting since last October. Back in the day the farm had a remarkable commercial vegetable and herb garden and the tomato houses incorporated the raised beds I inherited when I bought the place in 1989. The tomato houses were burnt down in a huge fire that took out the stables for the shire horses and the cattle byres the evidence of which I discovered in a layer of dark carbon and ashes when creating my own garden. Allegedly a result of some kid playing with matches in the straw barn the story is that it took days and hosts of fire crews working shifts to put out. I can’t get actual dates but I think it was back in the 50’s. It was the raised beds made of local brick that inspired me to follow the theme in my garden and I didn’t realise that those combined with the 2m steel stanchions and the long tall brickwork that used to be above the existing stonewall that I tore down in the 90’s made up an elaborate greenhouse.This year I’m replanting the beds with tomatoes, cucumbers, chillis and peppers and with their back to the warm South facing wall I hope to reap a harvest. My only worry is blight which I keep on reading about is acerbated by rain. I’m not sure whether to build a temporary roof structure to keep the plants safe or to trust to luck. I’m covering most of the other bases. I have 96 marigold plants to act as companions and ward of white and green fly, nematodes to sort out the slugs and plan on keeping the black polythene covers to keep the soil warm and keep weeds down. I also plan on buying some “tubes” of ladybirds once I detect any fly so they can feast and breed and act as another ally in the War.
Today I racked up the grow bags in the greenhouse as safety should the outdoor plants fail. I’ve got 150 tomato plants overall across 8 different types. Indoor I’ve got the dependable “Moneymakers” (3), “Alicante” (3),”Castalutto” (3) and “Super Marmand” (6) – the last 3 types all “beefsteak” – and “Grushovka” (3) – a very rare Russian tomato that is a tall bush type ( bought from “the Real Seed Catalogue”). I’ve got “Ailsa Craig”, and “Latah” earmarked for outdoors with the remainder of the plants although I’m going to try a “Latah” in a pot in the greenhouse just to see how it does as it’s a super early type.
I also have “Wautoma” and “Longfellow” cucumbers in a greenhouse growbag with others destined for either the bed or the ‘Purdie Bunker’. Courgettes and aubergines are also being split up between residences but I’m looking forward to the yellow climbing “Shooting Star” courgettes this summer.
While I was populating grow bags with Rab Simone was moving the chillis and peppers on. We learned that rather than moving them up to big pots that to take them up in gradients to help roots develop was the ideal set up. Again a myriad of types and a healthy return on sowing means we are overcrowded. “Pyramid Rainbow Chilli”, “Basque Chilli”, ‘Early Jalapeno”, “Amanda Sweet Wax Pepper” and “Yellow Monster Long Bell Pepper” from the “Real Seed Catalogue” suppliers as well as our own “Long Toms” from our seed and “Mixed Sweet Peppers” give us a great choice and a recent present ( Thanks Joe Beer) of some “Yellow Bonnets Chillis” to be sown mean our partiality to hot spicy powders will be well served this year.
I’m having a crack at sweetcorn this year and that together with the “Kakai” pumpkins and the seed grown from last years batch are all nestling in the cold frame waiting on the move to the beds.I’m fast running out of space and looking at the early potatoes urging them on so I can get a bed emptied and filled again. I still have to sow my special kales , the Purple sprouting broccoli and others and it looks like I’ll be holding them off in large pots waiting to crop the mass of garlic and onions in late June.Working out a rock festival line up is easier! 🙂
The various peas and beans are still pushing up the earth in peat pots as I want to make sure they are “adult” enough to handle any slugs and pests before they hit the ground. Together with geraniums and phlox plants and all other things bright and beautiful they have to wait till the time is right and the gamble is short odds. Even the potatoes are nervous both in the raised beds and in the crowd of bags we set up along the front garden wall. It’s just turned May, we live on an island and weather ambushes are all part of the glorious game of gardening.
I am working on music business stuff as well but for those of you out there who are reading without yawning this is the big set up as we all know. I should have been out there on the green front line on Saturday but decided that it was time to take in a bit of nature. For the first time ever I walked from Haddington to East Linton along the banks of the river Tyne. It’s only about 7 miles or so and turned out to be a glorious wee adventure. Simone, her son Liam, Rab and Brodie the Labrador and I spent a wonderful few hours following the riverbank and ending up in the Linton Hotel for a few beers and a delicious and well deserved meal that wiped out the calories we’d lost on the hike.
I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to make this trek and both Simone and I agreed it should become a regular saunter. The old mills, the ominous Hailes castle, the woodland paths laced with the aroma of wild garlic and sprinkled with the bursts of colour from wild flowers, the deep dark fairytale pools, whispering shallows below glorious yellow bursting gorse bushes, crowds of ducks with excited broods and a lonely imperial heron that commanded the river, still as death on a rock, all added to the adventure. I felt allowed to ignore the greenhouse for an afternoon.
I try and keep a garden diary but there’s too much to write up. I’m reminded every day about how lucky we are to have this together and how wonderful nature truly is.
A blackbird now sings from the whitebeam just as the LED lights pop off in the greenhouse. It’s 5 degrees overnight tonight. The sentries stand down but are ever vigilant.