We plough the fields and scatter

“My vegetables are OK but the rest of the garden is a disaster. It’s a sort of vicious circle – I don’t put enough effort into it to make it look nice, so it’s unsatisfying, so I don’t put enough effort in! My latest effort is a rain forest crèche on the dining room window sill. I’ve potted up vast numbers of ‘Greenpeace’ native seeds I was given last Christmas. I have put them in a very expensive potting mix and watered them daily for weeks. They’ve not so much as stirred – ungrateful things!”

“Spring has arrived early and it is a delight to admire the pink flowers of the camellia tree and the yellow ones of the mimosa in the back garden.”

“I fear my first beans will fail despite covers as I had to put them out as the roots were too huge for their starting pots. Dear X upset a box of very expensive Alpine Strawberry seeds, but fortunately they have started to come up in parts, so I am still hopeful. Parsley in the airing cupboard – the first lot caught me out and shot up unexpectedly but I am on the watch for this. Far easier to buy but not so much fun.”

“…the spray for the various beetles didn’t quite do the trick so the result is some rather mucky looking raspberries but they puree all right with a little hard work removing bad bits and the ‘livestock’! They take a long time to pick but as there are so few nice ones the problem of going round giving them away does not arise so much.”

“Other things have come on too, so I have been able with great delight to pull up the last of the over-winter carrots and throw them away. It was getting quite a struggle to separate the eatable outside bit from their vast central rock-hard stem.”

coarse carrots

“I have planted some broad beans which the pigeons are rapidly demolishing I think, and some potatoes got thrown in very casually one day. It is all rather half-hearted and vague but I enjoy trying to keep it comparatively tidy to the last. I shall have two tubs and a grow-bag on a patio I hope!! Alternatively of course it might be a bit of flannel and a packet of cress on the windowsill.”

Pets – love them or hate them

“Puss has recently been fattening himself up for winter and is now very cuddly! We have decided to put him on a diet as he does not need to be so heavy. I wonder if he has been visiting other plates sometimes! He can be very charming if it will get him a feed. When we won’t feed him he pulls everything off the front of the fridge! and then if he still gets no attention he pushes all the magnets under the fridge. Little Monkey!”

“We had to replace the dog, we now have another welfare dog, female, medium boxer type with white short hair and a brown patch over one eye and ear!”

“The kitten has grown – I can just hear you say ‘guess what!!’ or something similar! He is beautiful and probably the most spoilt in the world. [Partner] is gushier than I am! We had him fixed last week – he was v. sore for a day but seems to be back to normal now!”

“X has gone up the village and left the puppy with me in my study – which is not conducive to concentration, as I have to be constantly defending my bookcases from being ransacked. I wouldn’t mind if she was going to read them. She has already eaten two throat sweets from beside my bed today, and chewed the remaining two so that they will have to be thrown away.”

“…we are supposed to be going there next July. However X, the dog, missed us so much that if she is still alive we might have to cancel next year. She is on senile dementia pills now – which I might share with her!”

“X has had a stray cat hanging around her house who seems very lonely and hungry – so she caught it as the vet said if she brought it in he’d rehouse it – but when she took it in last week the vet said it was very sick and it would be kinder to put it down – she was very sad – she is such a beautiful person and so kind.”

“They own a Doberman dog which is the most timid animal I’ve ever met. It was attacked by another dog as a pup and X thinks she has never quite recovered.”

“Puss is still on the diet but doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller! 8 kgs! He is a big cat but is still overweight. We might have to try harder!”

The birds, bees and flowers

“We opened the Tea Garden… We get tourist lunches, old folk from Britain once a week which is great fun and they love coming here – last time a snake obliged by nearly climbing onto the veranda from the bougainvillea! and the sun birds are a treat, not to mention the hoopoes nesting in the corner of the roof (instead of a tree!)”

“Now in South of India, tropical flowers, spices and rain. We are in Hill Station of Ooty and we have a fire.”

[The James Iredell House, North Carolina] “Wish you were here to see the wonderful gardens – magnolia plantation had 900 species of azaleas and a wealth of other flowers… We spent 3 days in Charleston.”

“This has been an interesting day-tour into the rain-forest. There have also been beautiful blue and red parrots and birds called whip birds because of their call. They made me think of you.” [I wonder why???!]

“First time I have seen this tree. It is a frassino tree and grows only in Sicily or Calabria. The manna is used in the trade as a laxative and also for other medical purposes???”

“Wow! I have just seen an enormous wasp type thing about 1.5 inches – HUGE. We got attacked by monkeys yesterday! I was holding a banana – I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. They looked as if they would climb all over me – so I hid the banana down my top and they went away!” [Lucky the monkeys weren’t too determined…]

whiskery fish
whiskery fish

“The garden was all palms and wild orchids and lovely plants with green and pink leaves! And a demented cockerel and a bunch of scatty hens… We went snorkelling about 5 times. We saw amazing blue starfish – their fingers were all sausage-fat and bright blue. And angel-fish and other stripey ones and an amazing thing called a half-beak – almost transparent from the side except for its eye which is halfway along its 2-3 foot body. When you looked down on them they were coloured though. We didn’t see many shoals of fish, which made the one of about 300 we saw on the last day all the more surprising! They were white and whiskery with a yellow streak down the side.”

“X related how they’d had a real gorilla in her youth in S. Africa – its mother had been shot – and they looked after the baby and played with it – until one day her sister teased it and it bit her – it was huge by then, about 5 – and their father said it had to go to the zoo. When they left it, it had tears running down its cheeks – as they all had, including her father – sad.”

“The countryside is so beautiful and all the orange cacci [persimmon] on the trees everywhere. They look like primitive paintings.”

The attraction of camels

“Our camel safari was great – a long way down to fall. Felt very precarious. The worst was when the camel lurched to its feet – or knelt to go down. We had our camel man and a guide – they put up our tent and cooked us breakfast and dinner. Lunch was cold. We needed it after all morning in the saddle under the hot sun. Pushkar Fair and Hindu Festival was marvellous.”

[Morocco] “Surprise, we are here in N. Africa. Decided to come for two weeks of sunshine. All the grey was getting depressing! We are enjoying the different way of life – having to bargain for everything. Of course we have had a camel ride!”

“We are in Broome. It is quite a fascinating place. Our hotel is on the ‘waterfront’, where we can observe the 9 metre tides – quite astounding the difference between high and low. It is still a pearl producing centre and we have visited the town’s jewellers. X worked out that if she sold her house, car and the cat she would be able to afford two of the strands of pearls we saw… We have both bought pearl shell buttons… I am able to report that I have been on an hour’s camel ride, first along the beach at dusk, then into sand dunes under a starry sky. Magic. I think I could easily sit on a camel for several days on a trek, but I will have to win a lottery. The early days here were very rough and ready, I understand, and quite dangerous. There is a Japanese cemetery where 909 Japanese (mostly divers) were buried.”

The fleas that tease

Too little time for everything today. Found more beautiful postcards.

“I enjoyed the camping in the forest watching lemurs and catching insects [in Madagascar]… I like the bats but the 8 inch spiders are a bit off-putting… The zoological interest in the capital is the fleas which I tend to attract more than other people. Soon going to Morondava in the west to collect mosquitoes…”

“The weather has been intermittently good [Loch Tummel] – the only trouble is when the sun comes out so do the midges…”

“We left Bali in dreadful rain on 3rd June [sailing]. One man got sick so we had to get out the navigation instruments to find our way to Cocos and get him off. I like the beach we’re staying on. Coconuts everywhere but also lots of – [illegible: what could it be? maybe ‘ants’] unfortunately.”