Friday, 6 December 2013


Thursday, early, the paper has not yet arrived, the house is surrounded by noise as a gale howls in from the north west. At the bottom of the garden the eucalyptus is bent over - we watch it anxiously. I look out of the window into the gloom (it is almost 9 a.m.) and see the squirrel has managed to unhook the peanut feeder. It lies on the ground and most of the contents are now inside the squirrel.

I go out into the roaring morning and walk up the garden towards the wood to assess the damage. Apart from the metal dog falling over there is none, only a few twigs and branches off.

I collect up a scattering of plastic pots but that is all.

The further I go up the garden the calmer it becomes - it is so sheltered by the trees even though the leaves have gone that my hair (what little there is) remains unruffled. I am in a haven of peace in a wild world.
That is not to say all our garden is sheltered, it is not. By the back door and across where we park the cars is a wind tunnel and the lid of the swing-top bin I keep by the shed for waste for the compost heaps is missing. It had a big stone on top to secure it but this has been cast several feet down towards the fence, and the lid is elsewhere - out of sight. I did search but found nothing.

One thing I love when it is windy is the dry
miscanthus grass swinging about like long tresses. It will not be pruned until the early spring as it is a feature of the winter garden whether blowing about or covered in hoar frost.

I have drunk too much coffee this morning and am twitchy, puffing a lot and restless. Good company in the Farmers' Arms is great but I must have tea or a drinking chocolate instead. (Bit early for a fine pint of Wainwright.)

And I have had a suggestion for my corks - no, not that - from G in Dublin, use them in the bottom of flower pots - I said flower pots - they aid drainage and weight nothing. My answer is yes, but (there is often a but) they take up limited space - I use bits of old plastic scrumpled up. (Is there a word scrumpled? There is now.) Thank you G, it is nice to know I have at least one reader!

Then the 'phone rang and NC announced that Hollett's bookshop in Sedbergh had closed! Alas, another one bites the dust. I blame the Kindle. Where will I go for unusual reference sources now?

It is hailing and frozen rain is blasting the garden. I am glad I am not out there. It seems to make no difference to the feeding birds. The goldfinches are squabbling again as they try to crowd a feeder.

Friday morning and the garden is still, the storm has gone, a passing cloud.
Now there is a memory - Passing Clouds! They tasted awful. I mention them as my reader and cousin S stopped smoking a year ago - keep it up lad, no going back now. My parents used to buy Cocktail Sobranies at Christmas - strong cigarettes in multicoloured papers. I stopped on May 1st 1980 (well, not completely true - I used to have the odd one when I visited my mother for several months). She smoked Peter Stuyvessant kingsize and lived to almost 90. They say, foodwise, smoking is a method of preserving so . . . 

I am getting way off course and this has nothing to do with gardens. Rap on knuckles, buckle down son.

Friday brings me to pruning (not prunes)(do not agree with me even when accompanying pork in a casserole). I am working hard on my fingernails, have always bitten them (stopped for the two children weddings) but am assiduously restraining the tendency that has worn away my front teeth and filing the sharp bits (not of my teeth).

In the garden the secateurs are usually in a pocket, tidy this, cut back that. Roses need a trim to avoid wind rock so a diagonal cut just above a good outward facing bud does the trick. The motto is, file your nails, prune the plants. I know it is December but it is worth chancing a few belated hardwood cuttings, one never knows.

Finally most of the hyacinths have begun to sprout and the amaryllis are well on their way. However, I have one pot with nothing showing and I cannot remember what I put into it.
Label, label label is the motto - which I repeatedly ignore and rue afterwards.

The bell has gone on the timer which means R has made her butterscotch sauce for Christmas - wonderful hot on cold ice cream (or eaten directly from the jar with a teaspoon).

Recipe - 50g butter, 75g brown sugar, the soft stuff, 50g caster sugar, 150g golden syrup, 110ml double cream, few drops vanilla essence. (Could have used ounces and things but I am a modern man. If you believe that . . . )
Put butter, sugar and syrup in thick bottomed pan. Heat slowly till sugar dissolved. Heat liquid for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in double cream bit by bit then vanilla. Stir 2 to 3 minutes till smooth. Use or store in jar - will last a few weeks in screw top jar.

Mr (or Mrs)(or Ms) S. Quirrel is back. It is too cold to go out. They, he, she, it can enjoy the peanuts.

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