Thursday 27th October 2016 – A day out with Emily and George!

It’s half term at the moment, and the kids have been doing their homework, like very good children. So today we went out for the day. We didn’t go far. But it doesn’t matter how far you go, it’s good to spend quality time with each other that matters. To be honest I didn’t want to drive far, as the previous couple of weeks I’ve driven a long way. So after consulting the National Trust handbook we decided on Clandon Park and then Hatchlands Park. They’re both very close to each other, so it was the sensible thing to do. We’ve not been to Clandon Park for a couple of year at least. The last time we visited was before the devastating fire in April 2015.

The gardens at Clandon Park are open we had a lovely look around at the Hinemihi, or Maori house, then we looked at the Grotto, but Santa wasn’t there yet. To be honest I don’t think he’d like to set up his special place there, because it’s at risk of falling flint and rubble. Still it looks beautiful from the outside.

Sorry kids, Santa's not in his grotto yet!

Sorry kids, Santa’s not in his grotto yet!

We then went to explore the little play are with the wooden balance beams in. It was very tiny and my kids are a little too big for it (it’s meant for little people, not great oafs like mine). But we all walked the balance beams, even me, and none of us fell off. We had then booked a time slot to go into a small section of the house and have a look around at the devastation the fire did and how they are rebuilding the house. You have to wear hard hats and high visibility jackets to go inside, and are only allowed into a very small part of the building on a guided tour. The tour guides showed us before and after photos and told us all about the fire. The mystery of the Stoneware duck from South Korea. How the marble has all survived and why. Apparently marble can withstand the heat from a fire as it’s created using temperatures even hotter! You can still see the amazing marble decoration on the fireplace and other figures that are still in the house. How they saved what they could, what started the fire and where it originated from. We were able to look around for 30 minutes. And as the restoration goes on, they’ll open up other parts of the house so we can see how they are getting on. I wouldn’t know where to start, but they have a magnificent team who just get on with the job. They’re hoping in about 5 or 6 years to have it complete. I hope they do.

You can still imagine the beauty of this place even in amongst all the fire damage.

You can still imagine the beauty of this place even in amongst all the fire damage.

We then walked through the Lime Walk to the church. Very noisy bells at West Clandon, I’ve rung them several times. Not bad to ring, but no sound proofing at all and you can’t hear yourself think when ringing them.  Then across the meadow to the Dutch Garden where we sat on a bench and had our lunch.

And into the Dutch Garden.

And into the Dutch Garden.

The sun was shining and it was very pleasant. Although there were masses of ladybirds about. You looked up to the sky and they were everywhere. Once we’d had lunch then we went back to the car and set off for Hatchlands. The drive from Clandon to Hatchlands only takes about 5 minutes. The most important thing to do when we arrived was to ALL have a go on the space hoppers. Yes even I had a go! I may not have got much height on my bounces, but at least I tried. We then wandered around the grounds looking at various points of interest. Some of the holly bushes were covered in red berries and others had none on them at all. I told the kids that you can tell what sort of winter you’ll have by how many berries appear over the autumn. Loads of berries then it’ll be a hard winter, no berries it’ll be warm. George got so excited at seeing the berries he is now hoping for lots of snow this winter. We’ve not had any for a couple of years, so just a sprinkle will be good. Although they would like enough to build a snowman with.

Berries ready for the birds this winter.

Berries ready for the birds this winter.

We wandered round a little more and went through the various wooded areas, we saw The Temple, The Icehouse and all sorts of other things. We then left around 3pm, and then went to see Dr Strange at the cinema. A very impressive film and thoroughly enjoyable. I’m pleased to say we saw it in 2D. There is no way I would have been able to see it in 3D, I would have felt very sick. If you do go and see it, then make sure you stay right to the very end. Like all Marvel films there is an end credits scene! Only the hard core Marvel fans know this always happens. Oh and please concentrate when you’re driving!!

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Thursday 20th October 2016 – Harvesting Pumpkins & Squashes!

Did you miss me? Sorry I’ve been away for so long. Work has been manic lately. But today I had a day off and it was dry!! So what better way to spend the day, then down on the allotment. Well I say the day, it was really only about an hour and a half. But it’s still good. My Pumpkins and various Squashes have been growing really well all by themselves. I’m sure Lottie and Dottie would be proud. Now that the leaves and the stems have all gone brown, it’s time to harvest them before the first of the frosts come soon. Once you’ve harvested them store them in a frost free place until you use them. I’ll keep mine in the greenhouse. It’s half term next week, so I’ll hopefully be able to get to the allotment and do stuff more often, but here is what I got up to today…..

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The Bestseller Experiment launches today!

unusually tall stories

A simple proposition: write, edit, publish and market a self-published eBook and get it up the Kindle charts… in a year. Fifty-two weeks. Yeah, a doddle…


Oh, and while you’re trying to achieve this, and on top of all the other crap you have going on in your life, you’ll also be helping run a weekly podcast where you interview folk from the industry and maybe a few authors? Maybe even a few bestselling, mega-million-household-name-type authors?


And yet, here we are… Luckily, my cohort in this exercise in insanity is the super-driven entrepreneur and life coach Mark Desvaux who could convince the most devout nun to abandon her vows and take up pole dancing (don’t worry, he only uses his powers for good, not evil).

Mark is also that wannabe writer who’s started writing a novel a few times, but has never finished one. He still has that joyous naivety…

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Friday 23rd September 2016 – Good old Ikea blue bags!!

September is still being glorious, even though we are now technically in Autumn. Another lovely warm and sunny day today 23 degrees and blue sky. I spent a little over 3 hours on the allotment today, mainly weeding and working through each bed as I go. I was very pleased with what I managed to get through which is always a good feeling. I have now completely cleared and weeded one of my Rhubarb patches, the other one is nearly done. But I’ve harvested the last of this years Rhubarb, which again has grown really well. Cover the Rhubarb crowns with a thick layer of rotten manure once they’re cleared, and this will feed the plants over the winter. Then the following year you will be rewarded with yet more wonderful Rhubarb. It’s difficult to know what container to put your Rhubarb pickings in as the stems vary so much in shape and size. But today, after all these years, I found the perfect thing. The Ikea blue bag!! You can buy these from any store and they’re about 50p I think. I’ve had mine for years, and I think mine was only about 20p when I got it. They’re strong bags as well, and have short and long handles.

The Ikea blue bag is useful for so many things.

The Ikea blue bag is useful for so many things.

I continued with my weeding and managed 3 barrow loads of stuff. Some for the compost heap and the weedy stuff and couch grass roots for the green waste pile. There is still a lot to do before everything is ready for winter, but I feel like I’m making some head way which is great. I sat on my bench to have my lunch and left my trowel on the wood chip path. When I came back to continue with the weeding a couple of snail wanted to join in with my weeding. I told them they wouldn’t be very helpful as they don’t have posable thumbs, so put them somewhere else. I’m all for having a helping hand when it comes to weeding, but snail aren’t very helpful.

Snail wanting to help with the weeding....I don't think so!

Snail wanting to help with the weeding….I don’t think so!


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Wednesday 21st September 2016 – It’s clearing up nicely.

Don’t worry I don’t have a rash or anything. I’m working through each bed on my allotment clearing the rubbish and weeding, and generally getting them ready for winter. Today I finished sorting all the finished Tomato plants in the greenhouse and now it’s all clean and tidy. As I moved each tray I had to be very careful as there were some rather large spiders about. I’m glad I had on my wellingtons. I didn’t kill any of the spiders, but just let them pottle off and find another home for themselves. Once the greenhouse was all sorted then I continued with the bed in which the Runner and French beans grew this year. They both did very well this year, but all the plants have now finished and I’ve now tidied them away. Remember to leave in the roots because the will release lots of goodness into the soil for the plants next year. Also in that bed I have some “Lancer” Sprouting Broccoli growing. The plants are growing amazingly well and are about 3 foot tall. There are no signs yet of the sprouts growing. But I should start harvesting them from November onwards. I’ll keep you updated on their progress. Then finally before I left I started to clear one of the Rhubarb patches. I removed any rotten leaves. Yes I know you can leave them to rot down, but let them rot away in the compost heap rather than round the base of the Rhubarb crown instead. This is just incase they are diseased, then you don’t loose the plant. So after about 3 hours I came home. A great time on the allotment today. I can’t get down tomorrow morning as I’m working, but I may be able to sneak a couple of hours in the afternoon. Still it’s all weather dependant.

Lancer Mixed Sprouting Broccoli. I've got to wait until November to harvest the first of it.

Lancer Mixed Sprouting Broccoli. I’ve got to wait until November to harvest the first of it.

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Tuesday 20th September 2016 – The last of the Tomatoes.

A drizzly start to the day, but it soon cleared up. The sun didn’t shine, but we’ve had a lot of sun over the past week so I didn’t mind. I can feel my tan slowly fading and soon I’ll be back to my white pasty self again. Never mind, it was good while it lasted. The shorts are now away and I doubt very much if they’ll come out again this year. Because the day was a bit damp to start with, I still went down the allotment. Now that I have the greenhouse I can still do work under cover even when the weather is a bit unfriendly for us gardeners. I spent the morning sorting out the Tomato plants in the greenhouse. They’ve practically finished now, so I picked off the final few tomatoes, whatever colour they were, and then got rid of the plants. The old plants are great to pop straight in the compost heap as they’ll break down very quickly and the compost will be ready to use on the allotment next year. I spent a couple of house working my way through as many as I could, but have only managed to get half way. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow where I’ll be able to stay on the allotment for longer, so will take some lunch with me. The weather is supposed to be more gardener friendly tomorrow, so that’s good.

The last of this years tomatoes. They did very well this year.

The last of this years tomatoes. They did very well this year.

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Monday 19th September 2016 – Just a few currants.

Another pleasant couple of hours on the allotment this morning. There was only one other person on site. Well I say one other person, but I didn’t see them, all I saw was a car. So I’m assuming there was someone about, and that a car hadn’t just been dumped on the site? I continued where I’d left off last week with the weeding. But today was the turn of the bed where my Raspberries and Currant bushes are planted. The bind weed, which is such a bind (sorry for the pun), is trying to take over the plot. Awful stuff!! But I managed to get lots of it, and it’s roots up today. The currant bushes which I have one each of White, Red and Black are in their first year and seem to be very settled in their bed. I didn’t seem to get any fruit from the Black Currant this year, but there are a few currants on both the White and the Red.

If you look really, really carefully then you'll see just a few Red Currant berries.

If you look really, really carefully then you’ll see just a few Red Currant berries.

There’s not quite enough Red Currants to make any jelly yet, but hopefully in a couple of year time there will be.

And a few on the White Currant as well.

And a few on the White Currant as well.

Once this bed was finished, I then moved on to taking down the French and Runner beans. They’ve all finished, and are looking rather shabby now. If you have any beans that have gone too far, then leave them on the plant to go brown. Then harvest, and dry throughly on the window sill before putting them in an envelope to store for the following year. Don’t pull the entire plant up. Cut the plants just above soil level and leave the roots in the soil as they have all sorts of goodies that will go back in the soil and help the plants the following year. The old bean plants can go in the compost heap as they break down very well. Well that was it for today. I came home had some lunch and then went to the cinema to see “Cafe Society”. Very good and funny. There were only 3 of us in Screen 3. I think my favourite line was said by the mother “First a murderer, and now a Christian. I don’t know what’s worse?”


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