Tuesday, 20 August 2019


For some time now my blog posts have been intermittent and peppered with more photos than words. Two eye (cataract) operations have been responsible for this, and whilst I have emerged from those procedures with exciting new vision, the delay between them (seven months) and something intangible has caused a permanent severe dry eye condition. This is manageable, but it results in blurring and watering of my right eye which are exacerbated by too much time spent on my computer. Hence a drop in all forms of writing! But now it’s time to try and remedy the blog situation, and I begin with writing about a subject which has been hovering on my mind for some time: friendship.

Friendships are formed throughout our lives, beginning in early childhood. They can blossom out of random events and pure chance.From sitting next to a fellow pupil in school to participating in mutually enjoyed games and hobbies, they begin easily for children – and can end equally quickly when loyalties are tested or distances imposed. As we mature, at some point we become more discriminatory about friends. We recognise qualities in ourselves which we enjoy finding in others – and sometimes turn our backs on possible friendships with those who we unconsciously deem to be outside that perception. Perhaps, in so doing, we lose out – but such decisions can be life-changing.

So, at what point does a friendship cease to exist? Distance is no longer the impediment it used to be, thanks to the internet and new, easy methods of communication. These have assisted in the creation of thousands of new friendships worldwide which would not have been remotely possible even thirty years ago. I have several really good friends who I have never physically met, and the same can probably be said for many of you reading this. No, I’m talking about the point where you start to realise that the relationship can no longer be called ‘friendship’. The moment when you think: ‘Why am I pursuing this? What do I – any longer - have in common with this person?’ The time you decide to call it a day, because people have changed.

I hesitate to introduce a personal illustration here, but I feel I must. So here it is, and the reason I can describe it in this blog is because the ‘friend’ will never read it, and this saddens me because she has been a staunch supporter of my writing throughout the production of my books. This person, let’s call her Sheila, has been in my life since 1974 – which is a really long time for a friendship to last. We met when both of us were studying to become Chartered Accountants, at a ‘crammer’ type institution in North Wales. I would need to write another book about Sheila and her misadventures, for you to gain some insight into her character, but we were drawn together by circumstances and chance, and a fondness grew between us which time failed to quench. Godchildren were born and shared, and both fate and careers took us in different directions and locations.

So, what happened, you may ask? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s more a case of what didn’t happen. We were never alike, and our lives took very different paths. Ten years ago, she celebrated a landmark birthday with a large party which I and my husband and son (her godson) were ‘commanded’ to attend. Such things are logistically difficult when a distance of one hundred and fifty miles of awful roads intervenes, but we managed it despite the cost, staying overnight in a Travelodge. Was it worth it? Not really. We didn’t know the majority of the guests, and we felt like outsiders. It was lovely to see her children after a long gap in their lives, and to meet young grandchildren. Sheila herself seemed in a daze, and where before she and I would have jumped straight into old and familiar conversations, our exchanges were stilted; so much history between us seemed to have died.

Ten years later, and another party invitation was issued last month. I mulled it over. During that time we had seen Sheila once, and she virtually ignored my husband for the duration of the visit. This did not go down well at all, and he declared his complete unwillingness to see her again. Ever. Should I go alone, brave the journey and turn up for old times’ sake, one eye watering from its dry condition rather than tears of emotional reunion? Would she even recognise me this time? NO. (Bizarrely, when I typed the word just now, it capitalised itself.) This friendship hasn’t died, so much as lapsed from lack of use. It’s still there, waiting to be used for Christmas cards. Instead of going I sent a small silver brooch as a birthday present signifying the connection between us of times shared.

A true friend, my husband assures me, is someone in whom you can confide, trust, share laughter and – at times – sorrow. You feel sadness when you say goodbye, and joy at reunion. When these qualities have gone, disappeared over time and change, what is left? Perhaps only memories, but if they are happy ones of smiles and laughter, giggling over stupid and long-forgotten fun, then life has been enriched...

Wednesday, 29 May 2019


Some much needed rain began yesterday and this morning many plants, flowers and our tail-less blackbird appeared to be drenched! I love the deep, bright colours which emerge in such conditions, and whilst my camera cannot always record them faithfully I hope my pictures will also reflect the sense of peace and tranquility in our garden today.

This is simply a micro-garden-update! Enjoy your day, wherever you are and whether it's raining or not...

Monday, 20 May 2019


Doorway at Buckland Abbey
More than two weeks have passed since my second cataract operation, and each day brings new surprises as I move – quite literally - into the second sight of my life. Did I mention having to wear glasses since the age of five? Well this is no longer the case. Thanks to living in the 21st Century I feel overwhelmingly privileged to have undergone these two life-changing operations. Admittedly I have experienced a few more problems with the second eye, one of which is a ‘floater’ which drifts across my vision like an annoying fly or – as so well described by a cousin, a tea leaf! There is more blurring too, but beyond lies my perfect sight, revealing everything in a panorama of gloriously sharp colour which can be quite overwhelming at times.

I couldn’t wait to get back to my camera, but I was forced to admit that I needed to adapt to new circumstances, one of which is that I no longer see through the lens in the same way! This adaptation applies to many other tasks, and I now read with a pair of £4.99 magnifying specs instead of my hideously expensive varifocal glasses. This is my first piece of writing on the computer, and I’m still getting used to a different way of sitting in front of the screen without leaning forward and peering at it.

Here then are some glimpses from my ‘new’ eyes. As my friend told me: ‘slowly, slowly,’ and I’ll heed her advice and keep this article short. All for now!

Wisteria at Buckland Abbey
First Poppy

Dartmoor near Okehampton, Devon

Tuesday, 9 April 2019


We seem to be surrounded by an atmosphere of distrust here in Britain at the moment, with the media screaming out headlines such as: ‘Lies… Dishonesty… Deceit… Duplicity!’

In complete contrast, I can walk out into the garden and my eye is immediately caught by the bright purple clumps of Honesty flowering for the first time since I sowed the seeds last year. Their pure simplicity is enough to cheer up anyone.

April in the garden is a month of hope, as green shoots start to appear. In the greenhouse even the Dahlias have begun to push their way out of what resembled complete lifelessness a few weeks ago. It’s a bit touch and go, mind you, as some still look dead, so I will wait for at least another month before condemning them to the compost heap.

The Pulsatillas in my galvanised wash tub have blossomed into their best year yet, seemingly egged on by the adjacent Windflowers and dwarf Phlox.

Tulips abound, and I dread a week – or even a few days – of strong cold winds, as they will be wrecked.

News on the eye front: I have a date – at last – for my second cataract operation, in early May. ‘Hurrah!’ I shouted to an empty house when I opened the letter from the hospital. I can’t wait, and it’s not often that one’s anticipation of surgery is so optimistic.

The most bizarre feature about May is the coincidence of my birthday falling on the date of the European elections. Not a day goes by without the date being mentioned at some point in the News, and every time I start in recognition. Never before has my birthday seemed so important!

And on this happy note, I leave you with a picture of our first Azalea to flower this year, an exotic burst of colour to brighten the darkest of days. Honesty is one of my life's philosophies. It has caught me out from time to time, in its difficulty, but has never let me down - in the end. Enjoy the flowers - there is no dishonesty in such simple pleasure.

Friday, 22 March 2019


I am struggling with my 'in between cataract operations eyes' this month, hence the delay in writing my regular report about the garden. Imagine, if you can, waking up to find one eye smeared with Vaseline - which you cannot remove. Every day is like this at the moment. As I've mentioned before - and I apologise for so many reiterations, it's more than tedious - and very, very tiring. Enough said, and on to the garden...

My greenhouse is an ongoing source of joy. Today held a surprise: one of my new 'Angelique' tulips has become the first to bloom - and it's stunning! A double flower with creamy outer petals, the centre is rose-like, but the claim to be fragrant has not yet found its way to my nose. Perhaps this will come later?

For some unknown reason, wherever I live and however many I plant, my daffodils flower late. But when they bloom they are a riot of dancing colour, and I must show you two which caught my eye this afternoon. The first is a dwarf daffodil, a perfect miniature of its larger cousins. The other a double which I planted under our fir tree and forgot about - until now.

March birthdays are like a rash in our family. Last weekend we were invited over to our son's house where he and his partner went to a lot of trouble to entertain us royally with a wonderful lunch followed by tea and home-made sponge. We were celebrating M's birthday - he doesn't really want a fuss made, but we all insist - and since he's also undergone a minor operation this week, we felt a little indulgence to be appropriate. Little details such as the cake decorations, chocolates with our coffee and mini marshmallows sprinkled on the gorgeous dessert - are small gem-like memories to treasure.

I've acquired a slide scanner, and my brother heaped upon me two boxes full of old family slides dating back to the 1960s and beyond. I felt quite daunted by the thought of even attempting to operate the machine with my distorted vision, but it turned out to be easy to use and the results are engrossing. The forgotten country of the past suddenly finds its way onto my computer screen in bright colours, and it's mesmerising! So I leave you with a photo of my late uncle's garden. All of my father's family were passionate gardeners, and he took enormous pride in creating this one when he lived just outside Oxford. I love the curving edges to the borders and the neatly mown lawn. The photo was taken in August, 1978 on a beautiful Summer's day. And with Spring most definitely with us now, we can look forward - I hope - to just such a Summer.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019


There are days when not even the brightest of February sunlight or the prettiest of daffodils can lift the spirits. Distraction can be one solution to the brain’s chemical whims, and I experienced just such an event at the hairdresser’s yesterday.

Two or three of us sat on comfortable black chairs in front of mirrors, idly watching our hair being teased into submission by talented, long-suffering young women. Mine was being cut, and I was trying to avoid my fuzzy, unflattering reflection whilst listening to Linda chattering, when the door opened and in swept an angel.

She isn’t an angel, of course, but in that moment she might have been. Kerry, on her day off, couldn’t wait to share with her place of work the wonderful news of her engagement and how it came about over the weekend. As she stood with her back to the shop window, her face and hair – indeed everything about her – glowed with happiness. Who could not have responded to that widest of smiles, the flashing of little diamonds on her outstretched finger and the radiance of her mood? It was contagious. All of us shared the grins and the laughter which ensued.

Today, as I sort through photos of roses, I’m reminded of the joy of sensory things. This rose, 'Spirit of Freedom' is one I grew in my old garden in Mid-Devon. The fragrance was beautifully sweet and the shape of the flowers with their tightly-packed petals is - for a day or so - perfect.

A slightly paler pink is tinting our view of the garden this week as the ornamental Japanese Cherry gently glides into flower. It's been hinting at doing so for a couple of weeks, but today the show begins and I must share a couple of photos. I couldn't resist adding some 'blurring' to one photo, to highlight my own experience of it this year through these muddled eyes. In many ways the sight is quite interesting, although I hope by next year to have regained focus to both eyes... We'll see (quite literally... sorry!).

If you are afflicted by depression or simply feeling a little low, I recommend calling in at your local hairdresser's - you'll always find something to smile about.

I wish you a happy day, wherever you are, and especially all at Rachel's of Tavistock! (Names of the girls have been changed...)

Friday, 1 February 2019


The sunsetting of the platform Google+ where I have spent the last few years making many friends and contacts from around the world, is now imminent. Every day has brought little moments of joy viewing a myriad of beautiful photographs and reading posts both serious, humorous and sometimes sad. Strong friendships have blossomed, and will I hope continue but less easily than before. Life moves on, of course, but not without regret.

Turning to my own half-focussed vision, I have been slow to update you on the progress towards my second cataract operation because of a disappointing delay in obtaining a date.
A visit to the ophthalmologist at the hospital was both uplifting and depressing. This kind young man expressed a total understanding of my dilemma - one now-perfect eye, one distinctly poor short-sighted astignatic eye (did you spot the oxymoron there?) and brain overload! His appreciation of my slowed day-to-day skills was like a soothing balm. He then explained that an eighteen-week waiting list would be more difficult for me than others, but was the standard delay for a second cataract operation. It is assumed, wrongly in my case, that the first operation has made life so wonderful that there is no rush for the next. Well, life is always wonderful, but eighteen weeks, followed by another six-week recovery period, is a little daunting.
"Don't book your holiday," he told me, and "please don't drive!" I obey, glumly.

Snow has arrived in the garden, and all over Devon. Here, right under the corner of Dartmoor, we have been given a little protection from the worst snowfalls. It's achingly cold though, and harder to do things - especially in the garden. So instead I've been doing the things I can - a bizarre and short list: knitting, reading (large text), cooking and listening to the radio are immensely comforting asides to the undramatic slow pattern of my day-to-day run-of-the-mill chores. Reading the posts on Google+ will soon no longer be on that list. A new chapter opens, a new month begins and we all move closer to Spring.