Oliver Stone, Chocolate Hobnobs and Japanese Knotweed

Mark Stay Writes

After months of wrangling with estate agents, solicitors, Japanese Knotweed and a very stubborn tree, my family and I have finally moved home. We’ve left the suburbs behind and headed out to the country where I won’t be watching afternoon repeats or the food I eat, but instead working on making a new life here, and writing as much as possible in my mighty man cave (with a lovely view of the washing line)…


The latest news on the Bestseller Experiment is that we’ve finished our latest draft and have sent it to our editor. This is the first time that a fresh pair of eyes will read our work, and it’s always a slightly terrifying prospect, but we’ve worked our nuts off on this book, and when working on the final chapters over the weekend I actually found myself blubbing. That’s never happened to me before, so I…

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A day at the White Cliffs of Dover!

There were no bluebirds over them today, just a few seagulls. Today the kids and I went for a day out to a National Trust place that we’ve not visited before. So today I decided that we would visit the White Cliffs of Dover and the South Foreland Lighthouse. If you’re going to see one, you might as well see them both because they’re right next to each other. The day was sunny with a gentle breeze. You don’t really want to be up on top of a cliff in rain and gales, so we picked the perfect day. The first thing you notice when you start your walk, is the Dover port below you. The only way I can describe it, is that it’s like watching a Scalectric set, with cars and lorries whizzing along it. They just seemed to go in circles, clearly they weren’t, but it was fascinating to watch.IMG_4081

If you’re scared of heights then I wouldn’t suggest you don’t walk along the cliff edge path. It’s not fenced off, but is far enough away from the edge to feel safe. Well I thought so, but both Emily and George realised they may be a little scared of heights, and kept their distance. The views were unbelievable. We came to the conclusion that nature can be so beautiful at times, but also sometimes it can be very scary.

As we were walking along the designated path, I kept seeing some rather unusual plants. Now you would normally see these in a vegetable patch, so what they were doing all over the side of the cliffs is anyones guess. How they got there I guess will always be a mystery. What are they? Brassicas!! Yes that’s right, they actually look like Flower sprouts/ Brukale, and they were every where. Some had gone to seed, so they clearly liked it up on the Dover Cliff tops.IMG_4085

We carried on walking and sometimes the path got very close to the edge. If you wanted to look over the edge safely, the best way to do it was to lie on your tummy and pop your head over, making sure you didn’t drop your sunglasses in the process. I’m glad to say we didn’t loose anything, but it makes you wonder how many, sunglasses and mobile phones have been lost over the edge. At the bottom of the cliffs there is no beach, just lots of hard rocks below.

We then came across the Fan Bay Deep Shelter. If you ever go to the White Cliffs of Dover, you must go on the tour. It’s brilliant. A little chilly inside, but there is so much to look at. The gentleman that showed us around was superb. He knew his stuff, some from personal experience. He told us all about why the tunnels were there, who lived and worked in them, why they were built, how they were built. So much information. We must have been on the tour for about an hour, but it didn’t seem that long at all. You’ve got to experience it for yourselves, you won’t be disappointed.

Once we left the dark depths of the tunnels underground, we continued walking along the path, and finally we came to the South Foreland Lighthouse. Again it was a guided tour and another lovely elderly chap showed us around, and told us all about the Goodwin Sands where so many ships have been lost. I never knew it was there, but I won’t be going out in a boat just incase. He took us up to the very top of the lighthouse and showed us how it all worked. It’s been decommissioned now, but still works perfectly. We then went outside at the top of the lighthouse, and our guide pointed out various points of interest on the horizon. He told us some wonderful stories, some he knew to be true, others he said may not have been true. But stories are there to entertain you, and even if they weren’t true they sounded like they should have been. The view from the top was fantastic, if a little on the windy side.

There were all sorts of memorabilia in the lighthouse, and the books that the lighthouse keeper would have to record his information in. The once section of this that did make me giggle was the way weather was described. Yes you can understand: “cloudy”, “foggy”, “snow”, “thunder”. These all make sense, but what is “Ugly” weather? Apparently it’s “threatening and should be used with caution”. What ever that means.

Once we had come down from our lighthouse tour, the kids had an ice cream (well it goes without saying) and we walked all the way back along the marked route all the way back to the car park. We got back to the car exhausted, but we’d all had a really amazing day. We will definitely go back again, but this time when Mark can come with us.


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When to harvest your potatoes

If you haven’t started harvesting your potatoes yet, very soon you will be. If this is your first time growing potatoes you are in for such a treat. Freshly harvest potatoes taste amazing! They are so fresh and flavourful, they need only to be gently washed, then boiled in slightly salted water before being drained and then a little butter melted over the top. Perfect! Your taste buds will be buzzing with excitement and will love you forever.

There is more information in my very helpful guide on potatoes, with all the information you need, and is only 99p. There is also a lovely little recipe at the back for you to try. Click HERE for more information.

Enjoy you freshly harvested potatoes, there is nothing quite like a freshly harvest spud!



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Want to know when to harvest your fruits and vegetables?

All the information you need to know about feeding, looking after, and harvesting your plants can be found in my ebooks. Including a little recipe at the end as well for you to try. Click on the vegetable and you’ll go straight to the book: CARROTS, POTATOES, ONIONS, FRENCH BEANS and CONTAINER GARDENING.

And for the little gardeners in your family, don’t forget my series of LOTTIE and DOTTIE BOOKS. These are perfect for those learning to garden and read as well. CARROTS, SUNFLOWERS, PUMPKINS.

Happy gardening!!


Today’s harvest.


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Monday 31st July 2017 – A brand new garden.

Yes we’ve finally moved, and now that the house is sorted, and all but about 2 boxes of pictures have been unpacked, I can now get in the garden. We have bought a new camera and mic which are brilliant. I know you’re going to ask me which ones we’ve got, but I can’t remember so I’ll have to ask Mark. The garden is a blank canvas, which is brilliant. I have a plan in my little brain, which only I can see at the moment, and it looks lovely. I need to get out with a tape measure and then design on some squared paper what I want to create. I’m sure there’s a way of doing it on the computer, but I like the old fashioned way. I’ll keep you updated every step of the way. We are wondering what treasures and possibly strange discoveries we’ll find on the way.  When we moved into our previous house in Surrey, I found a pot of Coleman’s mustard in the long grass and an adult video (you know they type and I didn’t watch it, just incase you’re wondering) in the conifer trees!! Yes you heard me correctly, the estate agents were very amused. I will be very surprised if we discover anything quite as strange in this garden. So here it is, the first look at my new garden. Please excuse the mess we’ve only just moved in.

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Our new home in the country!!

We looked high, we looked low, we looked everywhere we went, but finally we found our home in the heart of the country! I know it’s been a while since we spoke last, but lots has been happening for us as a family and not much of that has been gardening related. You may remember me telling you we were moving, well it FINALLY happened!! We sold our property really quickly and also found our new home fairly quickly as well (all in November 2016). It was all going smoothly and wasn’t as stressful as many people had made it out to be. Then once all the survey’s started then all sorts of things came up. The main problem was, we didn’t know, that where we were living, apparently we didn’t own the bottom half of that garden?! Yes it was all a shock to us as well. We kept joking that our chickens were trespassing on council land. Once we discovered this (in February 2017) we were told that it was very simple to sort, and wouldn’t take long. What isn’t long to us, and what the council think of as not long are two different things. 5 months!! Yes you heard me correctly!! But finally it was sorted. We were very close to moving many times, but then something else came up. We wanted to move in the school Easter holidays, but that didn’t happen, June wasn’t good because of exams, so once they were out the way then we could set a date. We only had about 7 days to pack up the house, once the boxes had arrived. That’s really hard to do, especially when you have nowhere to put anything. It felt like our house was a cardboard box factory for that week. I just had to keep reminding myself that this was only going to be for a little while and soon they would all go. I don’t like clutter, lack of space and mess, it makes me stressed and cross. Mark took most of the week, running up to the move, off. So between us we packed up everything. When we moved in to that house in April 2001, Emily was 17 months old and George didn’t even exist. We hardly had anything. After 16 years and 2 and a half months, you accumulate lots of stuff. Our official moving day was Tuesday 11th July, but because we were moving such a distance the removals guys came on the Monday and packed up most of the boxes in their lorry, and just left us with the TV, the fridge and our mattresses. They were amazing and worked unbelievably hard. If you’re moving I would recommend them, Robinson’s Relocation. When they’d gone at the end of Monday, we went out to our local Superfish restaurant to have dinner. I wasn’t going to cook, well I couldn’t as they’d packed away my pots and pans! We then went to sleep in a very empty and echoey house. We woke in the morning and the guys arrived again to pack the rest of our belongings in their lorry. It was a huge lorry and we filled it right to the back. They had to stack some of my plant pots on top of each other so they could fit everything in. Just before we left we had an emotional last walk around the house. All of us got emotional in our own little way. George was born in the lounge (it was planned), so it’s the only home he’s every known. Emily has lived most of her life in that house, and it’s the home that Mark and I have also lived in for the longest. We said farewell to our neighbours, all who are brilliant and we love to pieces. The square were we lived was like a little community, everyone looked out for each other. The lorry left to travel the 75 miles to our new home. We handed our keys into the estate agents, got a sandwich and then started the drive down. As we were driving down, it occurred to us that we were actually homeless, which is a very weird feeling, and that all our possessions were in the back of a lorry. The lorry was limited to a certain speed, and we could go faster, so we didn’t have to hurry. The drive down was very uneventful, and the motorways were clear, all of them, even the M25? We did get stuck in a little bit of traffic, because there had been a small shunt between 3 cars, but it didn’t slow us down by much. Finally we arrived at the estate agents and picked up the keys, and then drove to our new home. We beat the removal company by just a couple of minutes. Then it was time to off load. It was getting quite late so they offloaded the essentials, like the mattresses and the TV and a box of food, and then left us to relax. Again we went out for dinner that evening to our local pub. Very tasty. After a slightly bizarre nights sleep in a new house with lots of strange sounds and no light pollution (when it’s dark, it’s dark), the removals men arrived the following day to off load everything else and put the boxes in the correct rooms. We’d numbered the boxes and the rooms, so they knew where everything needed to go. I made sure I had plenty of tea, coffee, cake, biscuits and fruit and anything else I could think of to keep them going. Once everything was off loaded we were again surrounded by boxes, but because our new home is bigger it didn’t seem as bad. Now we’ve been in for a little over a week, we’ve now unpacked most boxes, just about 6 left to unpack, so it now feels like home. We’re all settled in, and are getting used to our new surroundings. The garden is the next thing to conquer. I have a plan, and loads I want to do with it. But before I can get the chicken in their final place, and the greenhouses up and then my raised beds in and start to create my little paradise there are 10 cypress trees at the end of the garden that need to come out. They’re 10 foot deep and 8 meters tall!! The farmer opposite can do them, but he’s busy at the moment harvesting, so I may have to wait until he’s done. As soon as I start the garden, I’ll make a video, so you can join me. But here is the garden as it looks at the moment.






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How does your garden grow?

Are there silver bells and cockle shells in your garden? No, there are tomatoes and climbing beans all in a row.  Summer is now in full swing, and even though the sun doesn’t always shine, it is still wonderful and warm. Today is the 1st of July, so all your tender crops should be well established in your garden now. Make sure you water and feed your plants regularly, and watch out for any pests and diseases that they may get. The earlier you spot any potential problems, then the easier it is to cure your plants. So be vigilant and check your plants every few days. If you’ve not started to harvest your first crops yet, then soon you will. All that hard work will be worth all the effort your put in to caring for your seedlings. You’re dinners will taste amazing with your freshly harvested produce.

If you need any more information, don’t forget my ebooks, they have everything you need to know. And if you have time, please leave a review. Click on the words below and they’ll take you straight to each individual book. CONTAINER GARDENING, CARROTS, POTATOES, ONIONS, and FRENCH BEANS.

There are more books to follow, the next one is tomatoes which will be ready in August. But I can only write one at a time, I’m going as fast as I can.

Happy Gardening!


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