Greenhouse in snow


… and baking bread:


The cosmic cycle rolls on, as day is barely distinguishable from night.

It’s been an uneventful gardening week. It’s all about little and often in preparation for next season. The shed in the field is destined to be a mini off-grid substation, designed to power a fairly large-scale irrigation system for the big polytunnel that I’ve decided to buy. My bricklaying goes from bad to worse.

My your time for my time system, in lieu of rent for my other allotments is working beautifully. Alex has moved onto finishing the compost bins. We’ve just been up there in the first snow of the year. Lisa and Dave have more or less finished pruning the hedge (which would normally take me all winter) and Andy is going to help me do the foundations for the polytunnel.

Pre-first-time lock-down, I predicted quite a few things that came true. I also predicted a few that didn’t come true, such as the Padiham Ponce breaking the land speed record on a tricycle and fuel shortages.

Now, as the inevitable surge in gardening interest comes to pass, I am predicting a compost shortage. Under the cloak of the Christmas decoy, Andy and I have ordered several tons of organic soil to be delivered on Monday (before everyone else buys it). As both my regular readers know, if there’s a intensely difficult stupid way of doing something, I’ll find it.

We’ve therefore arranged for it to be dropped off at the bottom of the track where gravity is against us, and we’ll have to physically barrow it up the hill.

Wet, slimy, slippery conditions and ‘darkness before dinnertime’ will all work to our disadvantage.

Top of field in snow


Bake your own bread?!

Feeling ever more rustic and homely as the days darken, I finally got round to having a go at baking my own bread.

Dewy came on Monday and pruned all the fruit trees in the pouring rain. We’re both outdoor rain-or-shine gardening types. He’s the North’s answer to Monty Don. During a break, where we laconically philosophised in our customary manner, he gave me a sandwich on perfect homely home-baked bread, inspiring me to have a go. 

I ground up some of my rye grains in my little coffee grinder and added some strong bread flour + my own poppy seeds. Despite following the recipe, It didn’t go well.

Next thing, copious vile gluck was stuck to my fingers and I couldn’t get it off. Louise found it hilarious. There was flour all over my Iron Maiden slippers and the kitchen floor.

It went from bad to worse – I had to add loads more flour and made even more mess. The original plan was to bake it on top of the stove all offgridee style in a Dutch oven, but I abandoned that when fuck all happened after three hours. I finished it off in the oven. The outside showed brief crispy promise, but the inside was still slime, so I left it in for another half hour and all was lost.

The loaf, turned out brick-like in taste, texture and weight. Nevertheless, I tried to find a glimmer of redemption, by trying to gnaw off the tooth-breaking outer crust.

It’s all over now after an ‘incident’.

Unfortunately, I foolishly happened to make an off-the-cuff remark about one Louise’s charity shop purchases (hurray – they’re open again). Before I had time to duck, she whizzed the harsh stony boule at the back of my head and now I fulfil the NICE guidelines for a CT brain scan. To add insult to injury, she has just cruelly chucked it in the bin. I must move on.

Similarly, my calendula and comfrey balm has failed again. I melted it down and diluted it with some orange-leaf infused olive oil, to try and make it more pliable, but it’s still rock hard.

Fate is trying to tell me something about DIY right-on produce. Maybe I should try growing and making organic hemp turquoise tracksuits instead?

Brick loaf


The ultimate gardening film?

As I have cut down drastically on the finest gins, wines and pies known to man, I am turning to other entertainment – particularly gardening films. One of the nurses at work has been watching Gardener’s World episodes back to back and I can completely understand why.

I revisited the permaculture classic Withnail and I.

It’s about two friends who leave the city for an off-grid weekend in the countryside. They explore alternative gardening and food procurement methods. I like it because it’s a bit different – the protagonists aren’t your usual green-quilted jacketed, cosy-rosy-everything-is-lovely-in-the-countryside types – they’re a bit more maverick so to speak. They remind me of me – hapless and clueless. They have the odd ale, wine and jazz cigarette when discussing carrot varieties. They kindly offer to support the local economy (= people-care) by offering to buy the village café (installing a dukebox of course). They also challenge conventional farming norms. Are you the farmer? When one realises that one shall never play The Dane, ambition ceases. As youths, they have wept in butcher’s shops. The noble permaculture sensibility oozes through every single line, syllable and sentence.

If I said that a few of the lines are timeless classics, I know what would happen. I would get into trouble (again!) The die-hard connoisseurs would vociferously counter-claim that EVERY line is a classic – like that time when I dared to suggest that T-cells might be playing a bigger part than previously thought in un-measured COVID immunity – blimey the shit sure hit the fan.

My favourite line is ‘We’ve gone on holiday by mistake.’ It is of course an intellectual metaphor for doing something unexpectedly, under unconventional difficult circumstances. I use it a lot. I went to medical school by mistake. Blimey.

Withnail and I



I’m getting a bit sick of it. All the cool kids say ‘All you need do is do it.’

I’ve been writing weekly in a columnist without a column stylee for a good while. Every time that I secretly plan to stop, something else of cathartic interest happens and I just can’t resist.

This week, it’s as if all the toffs at Alice’s tea party are even more off their tits than usual on £180 a pop Tignanello and coke. You couldn’t make it up.

King Richard asked me about my writing when I bumped into him on the EAU. He quipped about the shortage of material in the current comedy climate.

I tried experimenting with different styles such as ‘How to’ blogs, but it just didn’t work: How to disguise volleys of loud farts at work when you’ve eaten too much cake (stand next to an unconscious patient obvs, and blame them). I’m monostylic I’m afraid – to thine own self be true. I’ll stick to the style that I developed in the book.

I experienced online heckling on Monday for the first time and I was deeply hurt – cut to the quick. (I wasn’t really – I just took it with a pinch of salt).

I shared last week’s blog on one of the FaceFart Gardening for Gits groups. Yet again, I was enthusing about the thermo-dynamic properties of my new greenhouse, speculating that there might be something about the inadvertent design that improved airflow and heat retention, above and beyond the usual up/down heat rising. (I designed a thermo-dynamically greenhouse by mistake – get it?) I was prob showing off too much (again!)

First of all, someone said that mentioning politics in a gardening blog was inappropriate, then someone else weighed in implying that I didn’t understand that heat rises and water drops.

I’m afraid that the devil’s voice in my head started writing coruscating replies, searching for vernacular words that would alliterate with: patronising; condescending and permaculture.

Fortunately I was able to reign it in by opening the mindfulness/wellbeing app on my smart-phone. I stood on one leg and circulated my chi for a couple of minutes and everything was fine. I retorted with a lovely rainbow in someone’s cloud reply with only a token hint of sarcasm.

Tbh, I don’t mind being banned from that group – there’s no excuse for rudeness which is not the same thing as healthy irreverence. My whole point is that gardening isn’t just for perfect permaculturists – it’s for fringe-dwellers and irreverent mavericks as well.

Snowy ranch


Christmas tree butt plug?

The science continues to dominate the Covid narrative, as paper after paper comes out in rapid succession. Some days, I’m overwhelmed and feel like sticking to Enid Blyton books.

As ever, I am the naughty boy who is the first to say ‘How come the Emperor is wearing no clothes?’

I’m impartially wondering what our Christmas present from the govt is going to be, and to what spectacular extent the people of England will continue be shafted (hence the giant butt plug metaphor).

The mass testing in Liverpool has created a lot of interest. I suppose people have the right to know about the 496 and 138 million pound contracts awarded to Pasadena firm Innova – who owns it, who gets the profits etc. Private Eye have covered it nicely here.

I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I just want answers from proper scientists as opposed to overnight-expert dicks. It seems that anyone who dares question any of the govt’s narrative, is automatically labelled as a loon. If profit has clearly been shown to be the motive for a lot of pandemic related tests and PPE, then surely we should be carefully questioning the conflict of interest of all pandemic related manufacturing?

How safe will the vaccine be for women of child-bearing age? (it’s not recommended for pregnant women). To what degree might an asymptomatic person with a positive test might be infectious? A couple of papers suggest possibly not at all. Why isn’t the immunity of the 60 or so percent of people who don’t contract the illness in the placebo arm of vaccine trials investigated? 

The benign surreal razor humour and generally humble, respectful demeanour of the underbelly of Emergency Departments is difficult to convey. Our reality is somehow different to other people’s. We see literally anything and everything that can afflict the human race and despite what anyone might say, we treat all with compassion and understanding.

Sometimes, there are no beds. Patients on trolleys line the corridors – all the rooms and cubicles are full and there’s nowhere to see patients. Everyone is triaged and seen as quickly as possible, with everyone working together to do the best that they can. It’s a good place. Whenever I moan about going to work, Louise always says ‘You’re doing a good thing – you’re helping people.’

Gaines writes out all our names in Russian and Devlin, the queen of the magic money tree, and the maestro of thoughtful gifts, reports a big rise in mental health problems via her psychiatrist bro who is also a Rock & Roll doc guitarist.

I came across a headline from a while back that tickled my wicked imagination: Giant Butt Plug in Paris Is Supposed To Be A Christmas Tree 

It’s not a joke. It actually happened. It was a reference to a sculpture by American sculptor Paul McCarthy, known for his subversive work. It was a giant inflatable thing called Tree, reputed to resemble a butt plug. It offended some of the prudish Parisiens and was vandalised.

I’ve heard stories of folk accidentally getting sex toys stuck up their bottoms. Oops. I wonder where they go to have them removed? The Post Office? Downing Street? I hear that the inner workings of a vibrator look fascinating on an X-ray.

Why write fiction? 

Hush your mouth wicked boy – you might end up writing a bestseller by mistake.

Giant buttplug in Paris