Wednesday, 4 January 2023


 Happy New Year! As we roll into 2023 I’ll be taking a look at my favourite photos and books of 2022, but first – a few thoughts on the current state of things.

There used to be a description given to certain people: a ‘safe pair of hands.’ My father was one such, someone with whom you felt safe, secure and protected. A person at the helm of a household, an organisation, a business or even a government, who ran things in an orderly manner and with good sense. These people were totally reliable in a crisis. They had often served in the armed forces and (in my father’s case) during war. If everything went wrong, this person would know what to do, and would get on and do it.  And I keep asking myself: where are these people now? Has the twenty-first century seen the demise of the ‘safe pair of hands’? For if ever some were needed to sort out the myriad crises in the world at this time, it is now. More than this, there is an urgent requirement in many governments for leaders who can combine the ‘safe pair of hands’ with the star qualities of bravery, daring and courage who are prepared to take a chance and try something new. This is where things become difficult, because I must decide whether I believe such people still exist and can rise to lead us out from the slump of mediocrity in which we find ourselves, or if we are doomed to slide into a ‘slough of despond.’ The latter is almost too depressing to contemplate, which is perhaps why we all carry on living our lives simply hoping for everything to improve. I’m not sure it will. Tell me what you think!


Someone suggested choosing the best photo from each month of 2022, and this was a challenge I enjoyed. Some months lacked inspiration while others contained a number of ‘best’ photos making the choice difficult. In the end I succeeded in picking a dozen, and here they are.

Bullfinch in January

Ornamental Cherry blossom in February

Pear blossom in March

Robin in April

Tree in leaf, my birthday in May

Aquilegia and hover fly in June

Dahlia and heather posy in July

Echinacea and bees in August

Sunrise in Roscoff, September

Late Dahlia in October

Tree on a walk in November

Old trees in December


I read more than seventy books in 2022 - but this is an average for me! Glancing back across the titles, I'm struck by the number of 'comfort reads' I have chosen, as well as several which I found uninspiring and the odd couple unfinished. The phrase 'lose yourself in a book' did not really describe my reading, other than for one or two exceptional reads. I blame the uncertain times for this. Reading can be a form of escapism, but I believe my attention span is not as good as it once was, and I don't think this is due to my age. Many of you have told me you have experienced the same thing, particularly during the pandemic. Could it also be that there are fewer really engrossing stories? Several of my favourite authors wrote series' sequels in the last couple of years which have not (in my opinion) maintained the same depth of plot or characters as before. Since I have made little progress on my own third novel, I'm a fine one to talk, but I fear the same kind of malaise is affecting the writing community as the staleness infecting society as a whole, and which I touched on above. So I hope to start writing again over the next few weeks, and perhaps to change my early attempts at book three to make it altogether a better story! We shall see. In the meantime, here are three suggestions from my best reads of 2022:

Coming Home         Rosamunde Pilcher
Signal Moon             Kate Quinn
The Night Gate         Peter May

One old, two new. Let me know if you enjoy them too!

Finally a couple of quotes which I want to include in this blog post. The first is from 'Ultimate Prizes' by one of my favourite authors, Susan Howatch:

'Life's not about the day when you win the prizes - it's about all the days in between.'

And this one to make you smile, from Douglas Adams 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe':

'The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.'

Whatever January may bring, stay well and enjoy each day.


Thursday, 27 October 2022


 I dragged myself out for a walk 'round the block' on this dampest of October afternoons, grabbing the camera as I left. I had noticed some beautifully coloured shrubs in neighbours' gardens the other day, and I wanted to snap them before all the leaves disappeared. Many of these plants are a fair age, clearly planted by people with knowledge and imagination who knew how they would look in maturity. It's worth remembering how many trees and shrubs outlive their owners, sometimes by decades and even - in extreme cases - hundreds of years.

The close where I live runs in the shape of a large, reversed number nine, with eighty or so houses - a useful walk if you don't want to go too far or for too long, or when the skies are threatening.

Here is some of the colour I photographed and which I find so uplifting on an autumn day when spirits may be faltering.

The fuchsia hedge at no. 49 (fourth photo above) is quite magnificent this year. We are fortunate here in the South West that the milder climate allows many varieties of fuchsia to grow outdoors all the year round and survive winter temperatures which are less severe than elsewhere. The same can probably be said for the gorgeous Japanese Maples in the first and third photographs (above). Going back to the photo of the fuchsia hedge, it is rather depressing to see that the council has plans to dig up the pavement yet again, having already made a very poor attempt a few months ago!

This different variety of fuchsia (above) is rather pretty with its long flowers. The oak (?) tree below is a very old, huge tree which stands not far from our garden. 

The Council has not cleaned our roads or cleared the pavements for a very long time, hence some quite interesting plants like the teasel above growing right beside the road, and surviving in all weathers! The Nerine lily above it is one of several I passed on my walk today, and every year I tell myself I must plant some - only to forget until they bloom the following year. They are a lovely bright surprise on a gloomy day.

BACK TO THE GARDEN and I braved the sodden lawn to discover many more flowers than I expected have survived the awful winds and rain we've been experiencing in the last couple of weeks, including some last roses.

This is a brief post to update you on what is happening here. I'm off now to put the kettle on! Take care, everyone.

Tuesday, 4 October 2022


 When I wrote my blog post ‘Milestones’ back in May, we were celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the reign of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. Who could have predicted that she would live for only a few more months before dying on 8th September at the grand age of ninety-six? When people reach extreme old age their remaining years are numbered, but for those of us left behind who have known them for all of our lives, there is still a sense of shock and disbelief. Everything changes in an instant, and we will take time to adapt to a new regime and reign.

This has been and continues to be a year of uncertainty. Here in the United Kingdom life has taken some strange turns, many of them serious, worrying and stressful for ordinary people. In July my other half and I decided that after three years we could wait no longer, and booked a short break to France in the middle of September. Little did we know that we would be travelling on the day of the late Queen’s funeral: a Monday which suddenly became a Bank Holiday. Fortunately our ferry sailed into the Channel on an overnight crossing which was the calmest I’ve ever known. Including the night on the ferry, we were only away for four nights, returning on the Friday evening, but the amount of paperwork needed to enter France was laughable – and serious. I travelled with a wadge of documents for ourselves, the car, the insurances, the ferry and the hotel, fearful of being searched on the way out by Customs officers at the border (the car in front of us was fully searched) as well as on the return, with our pitiful bottles of wine, brandy and groceries.

I expect you are wondering whether it was worth all the hassle for such a short stay, and we pondered on this ourselves. I think it was, but it’s off-putting. We’d also had a week of silly ‘disasters’ prior to leaving, including two fraudulent transactions on our bank account, the final straw being the third time our rear number-plate fell off in the drive and needed to be secured with screws to take away the worry!

One of the best days, once we had settled in and done some shopping, was spent at a series of beaches along the northern French coast called Les Amiets. These are hard to find, and even the staff at the hotel were pushed to remember how to get there, one very kind lady called Caroline eventually writing down some key placenames on a map. My photos will show you what a treat the wide sandy beaches turned out to be, the unusual white sand interspersed at intervals with huge rocks and sprinkled with glistening shells.

I should also show you some glimpses of the town of Roscoff where we stayed including the wonderful view of the sunrise from our hotel bedroom window:



The gargoyle is one of several carved into the front of an old house further along the street from our hotel - which incidentally is situated close to the beautiful church shown in the other photo.


We arrived home late at night, having benefitted from another smooth crossing, and adapted to driving on the left hand side of the road again - at night!

We had missed a lot of politics while we were away, including a mini-budget from a new Chancellor and a lot of restlessness and argument amongst the Press, the broadcasters and the government. It's always good to 'escape' for a while!

Back in the garden, we are well into Autumn now, but this odd year of weather seems to have stimulated some of the plants which are still flowering strongly. Indeed, some of the Dahlias have only just begun to open their flowers and one which I had almost given up on will bloom any day. 



We've also had record numbers of tomatoes, and last weekend I spent many hours in the kitchen making (a first for me) home-made tomato ketchup. It's not a simple task, but my goodness it tastes delicious!


I read a couple of very disappointing books earlier in September, and then took on holiday one which I'd saved up for then: Robert Galbraith's new 'Strike' novel 'The Ink Black Heart'. This is a very long book, and it's certainly not one that everyone will enjoy - but I'm glued to it and whilst there is a lot of pretty awful language (necessary, some might say, for the plot) I have to say I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Would I recommend it? Not to everyone, but if you like this series you will love this latest one.

In these times of uncertainty, unrest and confusion, where the whole world seems to be in turmoil, we need to stick together as families, friends and acquaintances, and hold fast to the good things in our lives - however small or trivial they may seem to be. That's it for now. Look after yourselves!

Wednesday, 13 July 2022


This morning I cut a few flowers to show the best of the garden at the moment. It seems a fair few weeks have passed since my last post, and the hot weather we are currently experiencing has made me lazy and languid.

I’ve selected three dahlias, a small hydrangea flower and some sweet peas to brighten your day. All my lavender bushes are loving the heat, so some fragrant sprigs have been added which I wish you could enjoy!

A quarter turn reveals the third dahlia

The garden is wilting under both bright, hot sunlight as well as sultry, overcast days. Watering and caring for my plants is both tiring and time-consuming, but so important. I can only do both tasks at the beginning and end of the day when the temperature allows. 

Good things: despite the heat, everything is flourishing and there are dozens of tomatoes setting in the greenhouse. We've already enjoyed some green and yellow courgettes, and many, many punnets of raspberries, some of which I've frozen.

Not as good: the sweet peas aren't doing nearly as well as last year, despite being watered. Perhaps next year I'll try putting them in another position... two years running in the same place might have been a mistake. And while some of the dahlias are magnificent, others have dwindled to nothing and many have been shredded by slugs determined to defeat my efforts on that front!

Here are some of the new dahlias:





And not to be outdone, here are the Echinaceas I grew last year, together with a Zinnia which I'm trying for the first time this year:





Just before the heat became extreme, we ventured across the border into Cornwall to visit a lovely National Trust property called Lanhydrock House. This was a 63 mile round trip - you have to take the fuel costs of an outing into account these days, and the entrance fee isn't cheap, but it was worth the visit for the grounds alone.







Their planting is simple but very effective, perhaps a lesson for us all! I couldn't resist sneaking in the photo of me supporting the ancient 'Bodwen Cross'!


Between this and my last post, I haven't read much to recommend to you. I trawled my way through Louise Penny's 'The Madness of Crowds' (no. 17 in her Chief Inspector Gamache series), and it left me cold. It was a hard read and I gave it this rather cold review:

At last I've finished this book, after setting it aside and almost abandoning it. Why? I didn't enjoy reading it, and life is too short.

This author really frustrates me. Her earlier novels in the series were so well written, but this is incomparable to those. Her style now is laboured, an effort to read. Her vocabulary is at times insulting to the reader, and her short sentences drove me mad. The plot seems thin, plucked from several social situations and twisted to fit the characters.

I think I'm done with Louise Penny and the Gamache series. I'd rather remember the good and the best of her work than struggle through any more like this.

Two stars. I won't be reading it again.

I also loathed Peter Lovesey's 'The Headhunters' to the extent that I set it aside, unfinished. I felt disappointed in this author, whose other work is incomparably better!

So I can only recommend two books which may or may not appeal to you:
Rosamunde Pilcher's 'September' is a beautifully written novel set in Scotland, about three generations of a family coming together for a party. For me, this was a bit of a comfort read, but I enjoy her style.
Richard Osman's 'The Man who Died Twice' is the second in his 'Thursday Murder Club' series and as I'd enjoyed the first, I decided to embark upon the second. He writes with a quirky style which not everyone will find comfortable, but for me it's amusing and different, and most enjoyable.


Here in GB we are in the midst of a headless government. With the increased numbers of people suffering from scary new variants of Covid, and the grimly ongoing war in Ukraine, life feels uncertain and very precious.

Look after yourselves and if it's Summer where you are, enjoy it as much as you can. We are, I fear, in for a testing Winter! I leave you with some begonias, which suddenly appeared from almost nothing in an old pot in a corner of the greenhouse, having quietly survived the winter. Perhaps they are as good as a hug...