The world of an obsessive gardener
"I think the answer lies in the soil!" Arthur Fallowfield (Round the Horne 1962 )
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Dear Dr. Paisley,
You have been voted into a position of some influence: so where do you go from here? Stay and cultivate your own small enclosure or reach out and try to improve the whole land?
In a garden there is no going back and no standing still. Leave things alone, then weeds will smother the plants you value while others grow in ways you do not want. A healthy garden needs constant care and from time to time you must break and clear new ground.
This is a daunting task and you will find it painful. Nevertheless I hope you will reach out your hand and grasp the opportunity.
posted by Dave # 15:16
Saturday, November 29, 2003
I wouldn't be surprised if you develop a tic in your cheek each time someone mentions Northern Ireland. Let's see: the DUP will not talk to Sinn Fein under any circumstances but at the same time they want to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement. One might ask, "How?", and, "With whom?"
Relax, Tony! The DUP have 30 out of the 108 seats. Sinn Fein, the UUP and the SDLP, all the parties that support the existing agreement, have 69. That's a majority: problem solved! Suggest to Gerry and David that they form a government together (but let each think it is his idea).
Unlikely combinations work very well in the garden. We have marigolds among the vegetables and herbs growing among the flowers. What is so impossible about combining orange and green?
posted by Dave # 17:22
Friday, November 28, 2003
Nice one George!
It's always good to do the unexpected and turning up in Iraq like that had a big impact. Although the meal you ate with your troops must be the most expensive plate of meat and two veg. ever served, the picture of you holding the turkey is a great image.
Things sometimes turn up unexpectedly in the garden to share a meal also. These two pheasants like to pick up the seed dropped from from the bird feeders above.
How lucky there just happened to be a camera around to record both moments!
posted by Dave # 15:29
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Congratulations on reducing the numbers of asylum seekers by 50%. I hope these are the unwelcome ones who destroy their documents on arrival and refuse to say how they got here, rather than the truly desperate, escaping from death and persecution.
The reduction in the numbers of unwelcome visitors to the garden is even more impressive. Last year two herons fished our pond without permission. This year there have been none. All that I needed was a little discreet netting for the fish to hide under and the objective was humanely achieved.
I certainly didn't have to resort to threats against the eggs or chicks.
posted by Dave # 15:20
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
I thought the Queen read your speech really well considering you only got it to her at the last minute. It was nice of everyone to turn up to hear it but I thought the applause was a bit muted. There again, it did threaten to do away with part of the audience from the House of Lords.
Speaking of dead wood: today I did my own clear out. The bed of the stream which flows through the garden had become choked with leaves and fallen branches. When we have heavier rainfall there is now less chance of the stream becoming blocked and diverted.
No doubt you are hoping your Lords' spring cleaning will procur similar benefits to the flow of government legislation.
posted by Dave # 15:48
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
A bit of fence mending with Tony, but there's not much else to show for yesterday's visit: no agreement on the new EU constitution, a continuing split over Iraq, uncertainty over Nato and an EU defence force, but wait: at least you left with a picture of Leo. How delighted you must have been!
That's the great thing about the garden. You can enjoy a pleasant day, doing this and that and not making much progress. It is not necessary to complete some major project every day to feel satisfied.
I understand the Leo portrait was in return for six bottles of Chateau Mouton Rothschild '89. There're no half measures with Tony! By the way, I just happen to have a picture of my daughter with me, which I would like you to have...
posted by Dave # 15:52
Monday, November 24, 2003
I know you didn't get too much out of George, like the removal of illegal US steel tariffs, but don't let that Frenchman you have staying with you push you around. Point out that the level of public debt in France seriously breeches the provisions of the Stability Pact in the Euro zone: that only the UK, of the major European economies, easily meets the guidelines and we are not even members. Suggest to him that the French should work longer hours, start paying themselves what they can actually afford, cut subsidies, accept deep reform of the common Agricultural Policy, privatise nationalised enterprises, make themselves internationally more competitive by cutting social expenditure and perhaps look for a different president. Then we might have something to discuss.
Its not that I have anything against the French except that I once did a very nice little painting of my garden pond, only to find that some Frenchman has ripped off my idea!
posted by Dave # 16:10
Sunday, November 23, 2003
It's your own fault you're so busy! I told you not to leave writing the Queen's speech until the last minute. You should have done it before George came and given yourself more time. Any good plans for the country to put in it yet?
Our plan for the garden is to extend the existing transport network. There is nothing like a brick path for getting around the garden with a wheel barrow. I thought a high speed link from the busy south east corner up to the northern parts of the garden would be money well spent. It would also cut down the traffic from the car boot to the greenhouse through the centre of the house.
Feel free to steal my idea if you want...
posted by Dave # 14:09
Saturday, November 22, 2003
I know you will be feeling a little flat and drained after saying goodbye to your guests, but cheer up; today has brought some great news and that never hurts the government. Think of Wilson in '66.
Today has seen an epic struggle from the beginning to the end, with weeks of effort leading up to it. Sometimes it seemed we were getting well on top and then the enemy would be all over us again. In the end it came down to the resolution of one man: me! This morning Gill was watching something on television, so the final clear up of leaves was down to me. It was a clean sweep, the trees are bare and our newly laid lawn is safe.
I feel so triumphant, I might get a trophy of some kind for the garden. This would look nice.
posted by Dave # 14:33
Friday, November 21, 2003
As you fly into Teesside Airport, look out of the right hand window. You might catch a glimpse of Hartlepool and the ships you sent us.
I was talking, by e-mail, to a fellow gardener and fellow citizen of yours yesterday. I suggested that you might perhaps take the ships back with you when you leave. Her reply was, "Send the ships; keep the president!"
No doubt you will glad to be home and catch up with a few things; dead heading in the rose garden, getting the leaves up off the lawn etc. Enjoy your pub lunch at the Dun Cow. It is quite a long drive back to the airport, so remember to visit the "Gents" before you set off.
posted by Dave # 15:08
Thursday, November 20, 2003
London isn't "Kinda peaceful for such a big place". The police are keeping everyone away from you. Close by there are thousands of people protesting about your visit.
You should hear the storm of protest I create when I venture into the garden. Birds, which I disturb from their feeding, are chirping and scolding from every bush and tree. Perhaps if they realised that the nuts and seeds come from me and that I put up the bird boxes, they wouldn't sound so hostile.
Our friends on the streets in their well-meaning (largely), but misguided and self-indulgent protest are also wrong. Britain is saluting the rank, not the man. You represent a great nation with ideals and values that may be mankind's best hope. As such, you deserve our every courtesy. The people on our streets are not speaking for me.
posted by Dave # 15:31
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
That was quite a good speech, with some pleasing stuff about how much we have in common.
(One small point: don't attribute commendable qualities to England when you mean the United Kingdom or the British Isles. The Scots and Welsh don't like it and, through some dubious chain of reasoning, end up despising the English.)
One of the most important things we share is our freedom to criticise. If people think you are speaking rubbish, they are allowed to say so.
While you were speaking at the Banqueting Hall, we were planting out some dwarf conifers and perennial shrubs. We give them a good start by digging in plenty of manure around the roots.
I was amused to realise we might have both been dealing in bullshit at the same moment; you with words and me with a shovel.
posted by Dave # 15:27
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Although most people speak a sort of American here, you may find some of our ways strange. There may be occasions when you will feel awkward and not sure what to do. It might be helpful to have a little inside information to help you meet all these foreigners without embarrassment.
At Buckingham Palace your hosts prefer to be addressed as Phil and Queenie. Around the palace they have set out paintings, items of silver, porcelain, statues and other bits and pieces. These are presents they are discreetly offering you; just remove whatever takes your fancy and have it sent home. Don’t forget to admire the garden.
Tony is going to look haggard and drawn from lack of sleep. He will appreciate it if you make some sympathetic comments about noisy neighbours, if you can hear a baby crying next door. Don’t keep him up too late.
John Prescott is a jovial rumbustious character. If you greet him with a manly right hook feint, it will get things off to a good start.
In the parts of Wales where Michael Howard comes from it is customary to wear a clove of garlic around the neck and make a crossed fingers sign when meeting people for the first time.
When you are driving around you may notice, behind the massed ranks of policemen, crowds of people jumping up and down and waving their fists. These are rugby fans celebrating the England victory over France. To show solidarity it is traditional to wave back with the first two fingers extended in a V for victory sign.
People will appreciate your trying to fit in with local custom and I’m sure you will have an interesting time. I am sorry you are too busy to visit our garden, but there is always another time; when you have achieved world peace, conquered disease and poverty and controlled global warming. By then there will be more to see than leaves.
posted by Dave # 17:39
Monday, November 17, 2003
posted by Dave # 15:03
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Your recent remarks about reintroducing the death penalty, for serial killers, reminded me of a discussion about our policy for the garden.
There are many cold-blooded killers in a garden and the use of lethal chemicals is one option for dealing with them, but we feel that the advantage lies with organic methods. For example, the great diving beetle is an evil serial murderer of tadpoles and any other small innocent creature trying to survive in the pond. We found a completely natural way of discouraging them.
This particular tactic had the additional advantage of creating extensive news coverage for the garden, almost as effectively as your stunt.
posted by Dave # 15:46
Saturday, November 08, 2003
I trust you and Gordon enjoyed your dinner together the other night and were able to mend a few fences. I know he is a prickly character but I think the friction would be reduced if Sarah moved baby John to a room on the other side of number eleven, or at least shut the window when he cries. In return Cherie might try harder to stop Leo throwing earth over the wall at the pram.
There are many things in the garden that can cause irritation, but they need never be a problem, as long as you handle them with kid gloves.
PS. Owing to other commitments, the Sunnyside diary will be taking a short break of about a week.
posted by Dave # 16:58
Friday, November 07, 2003
I am not allowed to say too much, but I would like you to know that you have my full sympathy about you know what.
I have also been hounded, when a certain person claimed to have seen me doing something which I cannot mention, in the herbaceous border. I would never do that, and anyway, she didn't have her glasses on at the time. I hope this, and the photo below, makes things clear.
No doubt you will read all about it in the press anyway, (except in the UK, of course).
posted by Dave # 15:02
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Dear Tony and Gordon,
Now come on, you two! That's enough! I know exactly what is causing this little spat. It's lack of sleep. What with Leo teething at number ten and John crying all night next door, no wonder tempers are getting frayed.
When we were up several nights in a row, checking our tender perennials were not getting frosted, small disagreements got right out of proportion. I wanted to be more involved in electing which plants to order, but Gill blocked me. I had always understood that one day I would take a turn at planning the work for the next year, but somehow this has never happened. Yet we are good team as things are and a talk over dinner can usually smooth things over.
Just remember that you need each other and are stronger side by side.
posted by Dave # 15:45
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I thought we had agreed that sending us your old ships was a bad idea. As things stand we are going to end up with barely seaworthy, contaminated ships tied up off one of the world's stormiest coasts throughout winter, and no one having the authority to either send them back or bring them into dry dock. It takes real genius to achieve the worst of all worlds so comprehensively.
In the garden disposal of contaminants is organised much more sensibly. Once, when I was opening a new bed, I discovered a rusting metal drum of something quite nasty which someone had buried. Being a rate payer, I am entitled to have the local council take away and safely dispose of such things and that solved the problem. Does the US navy not pay rates?
And don't think that it is not your problem anymore...it's everybody's sea!
posted by Dave # 16:30
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
I hope someone stands firm on this one mate: two wild cat strikes in two days with the firemen coming out just before Bonfire Night!
Fortunately, in the garden, I am the fireman. After a bitter protracted dispute last summer, I have undertaken to dispose of all non-compostable organic material generated within the garden, by modern incendiary methods appropriate to the twenty first century, in return for an agreed benefits package including food and a seven percent increase in wine consumption to be phased in at weekends. If I continue to chuck the stuff over the hedge I can hardly expect to receive the negotiated rewards.
That's the way I always thought the world works.
Here is a little something for John Prescott's head, when he gets back into the negotiations.
posted by Dave # 16:59
Monday, November 03, 2003
You will sleep more easily now the wild cat postal strikes are over. I hope you can continue to stay out of the headlines and enjoy a good eight hours every night.
We get quite a lot of wild cat action in the garden and this creates mixed feelings. On the one hand there are the mice and the rabbits and on the other there are the birds and the fish, so I am never sure whether to approve or not - which is how I look at the post strikes.
I would hate it though, if neither had the freedom to follow their instincts.
posted by Dave # 17:00
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Thanks for all the ships. But don't you think that you ought to have cleaned them up a bit first?
When we make little presents of our garden products, we like to make sure they are in good condition. What would you think if we sent you some blighted potatos, raspberries with mildew, cabbage ravaged by slugs or apples full of grubs. When you think about it, it just isn't on, is it?
So thanks George, but no thanks!
posted by Dave # 19:39
Saturday, November 01, 2003
I hope you are not letting these post strikes upset you. I have had considerable experience in this area myself and know that it can be quite exhausting
When I dug out the hole for the pond, I used the fill to build a terrace behind a retaining line of posts. These were driven into the ground by striking them with a sledge hammer.
It seems to me that the post office management are being similarly heavy handed.
posted by Dave # 12:09