Book Review: Outside in My Dressing Gown

Every morning I take my old doggie out into the garden first thing, still in my dressing gown, sometimes stopping to admire a rose or a geum, checking my herbs or opening the cold frame.

Geum

When I saw the title of this collection of humorous poems I had to take a closer look. And when I took a closer look I had to buy the book!

“Outside in My Dressing Gown”

by Liz Cowley

OutsideInMyDressingGown

Liz Cowley has succeeded in touching on so many funny sides of gardening life – what the neighbours think, the frustration of the crowds at the Chelsea Flower Show, snails and slugs, the weather, being tempted at the garden centre, weeds…. There is at least one poem in here for everyone to associate a personal experience with. One that stands out for me is her poem “Ground elder”, a weed I posted about recently. Here’s an excerpt:

Spaghetti roots are everywhere.

You dig them up and bitterly.

You know you’ve got enough out there

to cover half of Italy.

Spaghetti roots – impossible –

and most of them you can’t remove.

So if ground elder’s in your place,

There’s only one solution. Move!

Grelder3

This collection is such fun! With simple verse the writer can sum up precisely how a gardener thinks. I open a few pages every day and find myself smiling and nodding. She understands gardeners so well! In “Here at last” she expresses how the buds of spring can suddenly uplift your spirits. In “Are you named after a flower?” she lists some beautiful names/plants but suggests vegetable names should also be used… fancy being called Maris Piper?! In “Antirrhinums” she has a conversation with a flower. And in “I know I’m not a rarity” she writes:

I know that there are many thousands

of dressing gowners just like me,

outside, and dibbing, snipping, brushing –

I know I’m not a rarity.

The poems are divided into seasons, which is a nice touch. There are a few poignant lines in some of her poems too. This one caught my eye:

Plants can plant a love within you

that sometimes lasts you all life long….

Very true, don’t you think.

June

To sum up: ideal for gardeners who want a little giggle, some thoughtful moments and a few smiles.

😀

(By the way, I got the hardback here, but it is also available as a Kindle book!)

Binocular Man

A friend asked me recently what that funny wooden structure is in my Tuesday at Two photos, and said “It looks like gallows!”TuesdayView25thJune

Oh dear!

BinocularMan

Let me explain!

This is my Binocular Man!

BinocularMan2

He was built by my Dad and my Man of Many Talents at my request, almost 6 years ago, inspired by the binocular men I saw at the Country Park near my parents’ home. (Take a look here)

And I love him.

BinocularMan1

I love the way he spends all his time gazing across my garden towards the hills in the distance. I often do the same when the buzzards circle overhead, or the woodpeckers settle on the lawn to dig for ants…

I’m glad I cleared up this matter, in case anyone else out there was wondering…. 😉

Book Review: Weeds

Weeds: The Story of Outlaw Plants: A Cultural History

Richard Mabey

Weeds

I should love to go on a walk in the countryside, or indeed anywhere with a hint of greenery, with the author of this book, Richard Mabey. He explains so well – and with such knowledge, humour and charm – where each weed we may come across has originated and how weeds have been the bane of humanity for hundreds of years. Our comprehension of their uses, purpose, growth habits and so on is so limited, yet Mr Mabey seems to know it all! This book is so fascinating I found myself taking notes!

First of all, he looks at how to define weeds, which only exist where humans are. Ploughing, for example, provides the optimal conditions for plants which sow themselves out regularly and grow rapidly.

He also examines the history of weeds; as medicine or food, in literature and common folklore, in superstition and religion. The allocation of characters and meanings to certain plants are discussed, as well as the weeding process in past ages. Poets and writers have referred to weeds and wild flowers since time began with nostalgia and familiarity, and Mabey frequently quotes one of my favourite poets – John Clare – whose pet subject was country life; our alienation from nature’s ways, and the changes in agriculture and horticulture are very clear when looking at old poetry. Mabey quotes from Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar:

“… Each morning, now, the weeders meet

To cut the thistle from the wheat,

And ruin, in the sunny hours,

Full many a wild weed with its flowers;—

Corn-poppies, that in crimson dwell,

Call’d “Head-achs,” from their sickly smell;

And charlocks, yellow as the sun,

That o’er the May-fields quickly run…”

The origins of many weeds found in the UK – some of which are extremely invasive – are explained too; how they were transported on ship hulls, in bales of cloth, in wood exported as building material, and nowadays in pot plants and birdseed, and even in coffins!

But my favourite part of the book was Mr Mabey’s reference to my most hated weed – Ground-elder. He says  “ there is one weed species that is beyond the pale even under our laissez-faire regime … in the herbaceous borders it permeates every inch of soil….. insinuating their white subterranean tendrils, as supple as earthworms, around and through any root system in their way.” His wife has contracted the name into Grelda, describing its witch-like qualities at the same time!

“Weeds” is very readable and entertaining, and yet at the same time extremely informative.

I highly recommend it!

The Problem with Words…

“Language is the source of misunderstandings.”
from Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saunt-Exupéry

Cover

I always felt German was a hard language to learn – much harder than French, my first foreign language at school – but I do understand that the English language has its problems too…

Here are some sentences found, oh goodness knows where, many years ago, that I sometimes show to my students to console them when they have difficulties!

  1. The farm was used to produce produce.
  2. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  3. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  4. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  5. I did not object to the object.
  6. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  7. They were too close to the door to close it.
  8. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  9. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  10. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

And then there’s these:

  • The chicken is ready to eat.
  • Visiting relatives can be boring.
  • They are cooking apples.
  • They are hunting dogs.
  • We saw her duck.
  • He ate the cookies in the kitchen.
  • Mine exploded.
  • I know a man with a dog who has fleas.

😀

Who says English is easy?!

 

How to cook a (Tofu)Turkey

As you know, I’m a vegetarian. This means turkey is definitely not on the menu here. But when I was sent this “how to” a couple of years ago I laughed so hard I thought I’d share. (Some of you may have seen it doing the rounds on the internet again already, but I could read this again and again and still laugh!) I showed it to some students once, but the combination of the joke  getting “lost in translation”, and the wry humour just didn’t work…

File:Holly Berries in Snow - geograph.org.uk - 136731.jpg

Have a laugh on me:

How To Cook A (Tofu)Turkey

Step 1: Go and buy a turkey

Step 2: Take a drink of whisky

Step 3: Put turkey in the oven 

Step 4: Take another 2 drinks of whisky 

Step 5: Set the degree at 375 ovens 

Step 6: Take 3 more whiskys of drink 

Step 7: Turk the bastey 

Step 8: Whisky another bottle of get 

Step 9: Ponder the meat thermometer 

Step 10: Glass yourself a pour of whisky 

Step 11: Bake the whisky for 4 hours 

Step 12: Take the oven out of the turkey 

Step 13: Floor the turkey up off of the pick 

Step 14: Turk the carvey 

Step 15: Get yourself another scottle of botch 

Step 16: Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey 

Have fun cooking your Christmas dinner, whatever it is! 😉

(P.S. Just for the record, not only do I not eat turkey… I don’t drink whisky either! 😀 )

Advent 2012 (Part Two)

The second week of Advent has arrived, with many in a shopping frenzy already. And who can describe it better than our old friend Charles Dickens, in “A Christmas Carol”:

“… the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly; and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible…”

I love looking through “A Christmas Carol” every year, and revel in the rich verbosity of Dickensian storytelling! Another favourite part is when The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives:

“The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy, reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes, and seething bowls of Punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

I have also seen several film versions of A Christmas Carol, as well as countless stage productions. The Muppets film version is, however, still one of my favourites! Take a look at this clip:

For the second Advent week I wish everyone:

Time to sit down with a friend for a cup of tea and a chat

Inspiration

A moment to read a poem or part of a favourite book

😀