Sunday, 26 October 2008

Simple Weekends=Happinesss

WEEKENDS are supposed to leave you feeling refreshed and revitalised. Only mine don't. There is so much to do that by the time they roll round the dream of cooking lovely meals, country walks and reconnecting usually remains just that. A dream.

Now though, it is all about to change thanks to Elspeth Thompson's new book The Wonderful Weekend Book, Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures. Although it is about the good, simple things in life it is not about do nothing, quiet, boring weekends.

It's not a gardening book either but it is interspersed with gardening ideas, some of which will not be new to gardeners. But it's not those that I loved in this book, it's the attitude.

Elspeth encourages us to think outside the box in order to get to grips with our gardens and allotments, to make them a pleasure and not a chore. I especially like the idea of building a shelter out of willow if you're not allowed sheds at your allotment. Now, why didn't I think of that?

Elspeth is a persuasive advocate of getting back to the simple pleasures and eschewing the supermarkets, DIY centres and fast food in order to reconnect with ourselves and each other.

"Recent research on the nature of happiness suggests that what most people need in order to feel content is not big cars nor fancy clothes but the straightforward stuff: a good walk, watching the sunset, time with family and friends and some wholesome, home-baked food." she writes.

A chapter is also given to reinstating Sundays as a tradional day of calm and relaxation with ideas for the perfect breakfast followed by various activities. It's not a book stuck in a time-warp though, there are plenty of suggested websites scattered throughout. I'm even thinking of copying the computer/mobile Sunday detox (I said thinking. I'm not entirely sure I'd be able to).

Thanks to this book I am planning a whole host of creative, wonderful projects which will, I am sure, spill over from the weekend into the whole of my life. It will sit on my bookshelf and remind me, inspire me and refresh me, like an old friend whose outlook chimes with my own.

Now if only I could manage to persuade the children to do in one of the most enticing suggestions - spending the day in bed....

* Part of this book review is reproduced on my other blog *

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

One For My Christmas List

I have started to think about Christmas. I know, I'm sorry. But it is genetic and in previous years, while I have thought about it I haven't actually done anything and so November and December finds me scurrying round the shops, along with everyone else, like a headless chicken.

I have also started thinking about what I would like. This is good. It is not as self-centred as it would seem. Honestly. Because when I stand in the bookshop thumbing yet another gardening book, instead of reaching for my purse I am now reaching for the shelf AND PUTTING IT BACK while thinking "Hmmm, I'll ask for that for Christmas". Yay! See how good I'm being.

The above book is one that is top of my list. Alys Fowler is growing on me and I like what little I've seen of her book. When I first started watching Gardeners' World back in the spring she would, well, annoy me. Just a little.

"Is it because she's on telly and you're not?" teased Hubby. Well, doh! Of course, I'd retort, because being "on telly" has always been my ambition. ~ Sigh ~ (for those of you wondering, I'm being sarcastic).

But since GW gave us a peek at some of the presenters' gardens (did we see Joe Swift's? Did I miss that?) I have warmed to her. Her garden was lovely but normal. And small! But look what she's done with it!

So now her book, which I will have probably read while leaning up against the bookshelves at Waterstones by the time Santa visits, is on my list. Along with this one, which is not really about gardening but a bit.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Now That's More Like It

I like reading gardening and house magazines, supplements and blogs but not very many of these tell it like it is. And that is for families with young children, gardens mostly are not the peaceful, beautiful havens everybody else seems to have.

When I think of my friends' gardens, the ones with children, I see that my reality is theirs' too. They have goalposts, swings, climbing frames, washing lines, bare patches on their lawns, bikes abadoned anywhere. And when I read about family homes and gardens I see none of this.

What I want to see is how ordinary families (those with ordinary budgets and not the services of garden designers on hand) manage to incorporate not a child-friendly space but a child loving one while keeping it looking reasonably good and eeking out a bit of area for an adult who loves to garden.

I've written about this before and Sharon Lovejoy, author of one of my favourite books, kindly commented that washing lines will feature in her latest book, which I plan on checking out.

And, lo!, in this week's Sunday Times' Home supplement there was an article on creating family homes, and no, they weren't perfect in design but perfect for family life.

"Remember, your mini-Versailles, complete with topiary, nymph statuettes and colourful flowerbeds, will also have to accommodate the unstylish - trampoline, tyre swing, paddling pool, guinea-pig hutch and crumbling shed. Don't be precious."

Oh, music to my ears! Don't be precious indeed! Perhaps it's a result of the impending recession, but such a down-to-earth attitude is so refreshing.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

October at the Gardening Club

Gardening Club's started back - yay! - with 15 new children and two old hands who are going to be my helpers (only they don't know that yet).

The first session was on Monday (which strictly speaking was September) and it went really well. Sometimes I try to work out why and this is what I came up with today - I was not tired (must remember to go to bed early on Sunday evenings), my head feels clearer with my youngest at playgroup two mornings a week (such luxury, time) and I just feel more confident.

So what's new this term? A flower bed Hubby very kindly dug for me. I had to get him to bring a very heavy bag of well rotted manure for me at the weekend so I thought while he was there....I was supervising (of course).

A new herb bed is also under way. More work needs to be done here but there's no rush. And we have a grow house (hooray!). This will make a huge difference.

I'm particularly pleased with this because I managed to find a replacement cover for less than a tenner to go over my old frame. What I would really like is a polytunnel like Dominic Murphy who manages to squeeze his club in when it's wet but we don't have the space or funds and they look quite ugly. As it stands during wet weather we can't do anything because the whole school is inside and there's no room for us. So pray for a dry autumn, winter and spring.

My plans for the coming weeks include planting daffodil bulbs (in the new flower bed) along with some bulbs I picked up for ten pence, sowing sweet pea seeds, starting off hyacinth bulbs, planting garlic and some overwintering shallots, clearing the runner bean bed, laying the manure and covering with newspaper and cardboard and, I think, sowing some green manure in the other bed. The third one will contain all our winter stuff.

And while that sounds a lot I know from experience that 15 children can whip through the planned activities rather quickly. Still, it is all looking good.