A basky balmy sordid humid heat intoxicates me for weeks and I’m relieved when it’s over and the rains come.
My intuition told me decades ago that being outside in nature and learning learning learning, was just about the most splendid of things.
When others chose foreign holidays, posh motors and insurance policies, I chose land land land.
Aside from health, friends and family, there’s nothing on earth more valuable than land with enough resistance to climate change to be able to grow food. Californian oranges anyone? It boils down to a natural water supply, good soil and clean seeds.
Despite the heady paradise of a magical secret garden, I get overwhelmed sometimes. One and a half acres is too much to keep on top of at this time of year. Watering, shite-shifting and harvesting alone take hours. Not to worry, I always have one eye on the bigger picture.
Broad beans, flowers, wasps, bees and figwort.
This year broad beans are a winner. I’ve never grown them before because I don’t like them. I do now. As part of my grand delusion, I grew two full packets – four to a pot, looking splendid for the imaginary plant sales. Once they got straggly, I planted them out and they’re just giving endlessly. They can be a bit bitter, but you can blanch them and squish out the middle green bits.
I’ve never been much into flowers apart from native wild ones but I’ve changed my mind. I’m reminded again what they’re for. They’re not for stupid humans to coo at and interbreed. They’re for one thing and one thing only – they’re tricksters – husslers – con artists …nature played a trick on me …she wants it now and she will not wait. She’s too rough and I’m too delicate.
I’ve never seen so many insects in my life. Several kinds of bees and wasps, hoverflies and moths. The wasps adore the figwort. I’ve never grown as many flowers in my life. Sunflowers ffs! The flowers are there exclusively for the insects. How simple. Nature in all her incandescent glory of pattern and colour, created flowers just for the insects. Wow. We need to remember that the carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts – prostitutes for the bees. Sometimes life is black and white. There is simply stupid and not-stupid. It’s a one way choice. Choose poisoned food or un-poisoned food. When the bees go, we go.
Talking of bees, I finally got round to putting another super on the bottom hive (after a quick courage-bolstering phone call to Dewy). As ever, it was more complicated than I anticipated. The bees had expanded the comb through the hole in the crown board. I carefully sliced it all off. Back home, I crushed it and let it drain through a sieve – a jarful. I can report that it’s head and shoulders above shop bought. Exquisitely sweet – clear and very runny.
I’ve had to emergency-harvest all the grain. I startled an entire flock of pigeons. It’s interesting that they were on the wheat rather than the barley or the rye. The twat-crows were there too and unfortunately I spotted a large rodent in there the other day – I don’t want to be providing them all with 5-star hotel treatment and encouraging them.
I’m extraordinarily pleased with the greenhouse – some of the design features were unintentional. I’m able to shove the grain up there between the cross-beams and the roof to dry. I’m getting pounds of tomatoes. I have my first cucumber. The gherkins are crazy. There are swathes of basil, chillis, peppers. Our home-grown palette is vastly increased.
Sometimes, especially when it’s sunny, I marvel at the exquisite paradise of the ranch – created cubic centimetre by cubic centimetre – day by day – year by year. Alas, there is no heaven without hell. No light without dark. No life without death. As I say every week – as above, so below.
I’m getting lots of flashbacks about my mum and dad.
‘Do you want to come and see your mum?’ says my dad.
‘No.’ I say matter-of-factly. Tbh I’m sick of her. I’m sick of her being in hospital all the time. With all my heart and soul, I detest the places. I’m all grown up now – I’m 14.
Everyone knew when she was in hospital, because it was the only time my dad went to Bibby’s, our corner shop. As a smaller child I experienced the serial humiliation of my school teacher revealing it to the whole class.
It never stopped, then 10 years later she f’ing died. Even at that age, I was utterly clueless, but for some bizarre reason I managed to tell her that I loved her before she did.
Children are funny little things. They’re not designed to be all on their own and even when they are, some grown ups will come to their rescue. They have a weird little protective shut-down mode when they’re emotionally overwhelmed.
Talking of rescuing children, the RNLI have leaped up in the estimation of the British public, and rightly so, for defending their right to rescue the most vulnerable at sea. They would even rescue that vile piece of filth if he was drowning. Others would too – just for the satisfaction of giving him his comeuppance – it would not be pleasant.
Grief and love are forms of truth. Despite seamless impeccable armour, the fuckers keep sneaking out between the cracks.
At the top of the field, next door’s horse hears me coming and lets out a soft whinny. I’ve learned that horse-whisperer turning-away body language thing and it works. He’s very skittish, but he’s used to me now. The goat is getting friendlier too. One day, when I’m chatting to them both, the black and white feral cat appears too, letting me stroke her and doing that tail in the air thing.
When Keith, our next door but one neighbour died, his cats were on the street. Louise started feeding them and built them a little house in the back yard. The black one disappeared, but the ginger one – a battle-scared old Tom, stayed. He accepted food, but hissed whenever I got close to him. I’m afraid I’m a member of the catsarec*nts brigade. Foul creatures. Shitting everywhere. Killing birds. Nasty scratches and bites.
Bit by bit I gained his trust. It was obvious that he had been abused. I would stand at the back door, saying ‘Are you coming in or what? It’s f’ing freezing.’ Once he did trust me, he sat on my knee and purred continuously. Do animals express love, gratitude, grief, etc? From my ranch experiences, I can report unequivocally that they do.
My biggest regret of the pandemic is that we lost ginger (we called him Buster). I forced Louise to move out and shield at the beginning of the pandemic (she’s never forgiven me), and I couldn’t always feed Buster because of work (I work in a f’ing hospital – karma is weird). Our next door neighbour fed him too and one day she phoned a cat recue organisation, who took him away ‘to live in a big barn for stray cats’.
I know where Eric Arthur was coming from when he wrote that book, but no animal, not even a single-celled amoeba, is capable of being so arrogantly cruel and stupid as that vile lying slobbering fat twat and his odious tribe of nauseating arse-lickers supposed to be leading the country.
They all have that stillpissedfromthenightbefore air about them. They remind me of those old boozy stoners who light the wrong end of the spliff – or worse still, put a roach in each end.
I had a bowser incident and it really scared me. Bowser sounds like a rude word, but it’s a water tank on wheels. During dry spells, I drive it to the bottom path and fill it up from the tank that’s fed from the stable roof. I know it’s terribly extravagant having two tractors, but the Ferguson’s intrinsic functional value is greater than its monetary value. I use it because it has a towing hitch so I can permanently keep the topper on the MF. It stands for Massey Ferguson silly, not motherfucker. Mowing the field is a joy. It transforms the look from weed-patch to posh country.
I filled the bowser and drove it up the field no prob. I was positioning it below the greenhouse water tanks for easier tractor access and I chocked up the wheels. I made the mistake of pointing it down the field. The moment the tractor was away, the bowser just rolled over the chocks and set off down the hill – a tonne of water and half a ton of metal. There was nothing I could do but watch it. I knew that it would just smash through both hedges and onto the track. What if there was someone walking past? I just froze into the tractor seat (which Louise bought me for my birthday along with a new exhaust.). Fortunately the hurtling yellow rocket rolled over before reaching the first hedge. I nearly shat myself. Had there been a witness I would have appeared visibly shaken.
I tried to pull it upright with the Fergie, but it wasn’t having it – I snapped a rope and the wheels were just slipping. I try using a long iron bar to lever it over. No chance. I knew heavy rain was coming and it would be far harder on wet ground. I left, deflated, realising that I can’t do it all on my own any more.
The next day I simply pulled out the bung and emptied out the water. 1000 litres! The tractor pulled it over no prob. I drove it back up the field and told myself to pull myself together and learn how to reverse a trailer – I just didn’t think about it and did it easily – it’s the same mental dyslexia as doing something in the mirror.
are tart. They’re my least favourite soft fruit. Despite their incandescent redness, they have big hard seeds and their flavour is nondescript compared to blackcurrants and raspberries. Paradoxically, they do a lot better than any of my other soft fruit. I have several bushes along the bottom, in the inner hedge (what dick plants all their fruit bushes in the midst of thorns and nettles?) I leave the bushes to get completely ripe before picking them, so it’s quite a big job which I often put off.
I’ve managed to mostly avoid the ginger gobshite from across the road since I met her a few years ago – we were playing a gig in Electron records. She can’t half talk. I made the mistake of offloading a carrier bag full of excess courgettes and tomatoes on her and I tricked her into helping me pick the redcurrants in exchange. It was on Wednesday after the weather had broke and the sky was bruised pregnant, cloud scudding. ‘Is it me, or is that the rain coming?’ I said, noticing a low roar in the distance. It got gradually louder and we knew it was heading our way – we just didn’t realise how quickly. Within seconds we were caught in a pelting hail, which punched holes through leaves.
‘I’ll make a courgette cake.’ She said, Tbh I was expecting one of those inedible dried up things that old aunts bake but I was wrong – it’s rather spectacular – very similar to carrot cake, but with green bits in it instead of orange bits. What’s more, she made some equally delicious redcurrant muffins and some courgette soup.
We could be onto something. I’ll grow it and you process it. Oh and whilst you’re at it, you can market and sell the excess (she works in music marketing). Oh, by the way the muck midden needs emptying.
The other Ranch
It’s 7:45 and I’m in the seminar room getting ready for handover – looking at the board and the rota.
On an early shift, even though I don’t start until 8, I always walk round the shop floor at 7:30. ‘You’re early’, people say. I pretend that I’m early in order to avoid the traffic and queueing to park, which is true. The real reason though, is that I like to see the night staff before they hand over. I’m a bit of a silent nurse advocate. When I suggested sharing our pay rise with them, I experienced the embarrassed silence to which I have become accustomed.
At the old place, I fought the most dramatic of battles. Not for me, but for the nurses, because they had no advocate. I can’t help singing for the unsung.
I saddled my horse. I sharpened my sword. I arranged my bow and arrows, and like an Apache, I circled them in the shadows and took the nasty bullies out one by one, without regret or remorse.
Debs and Lynne are in the seminar room too, handing over from the night shift. I hear them use the C word under their breath. They look at me to see whether I’ve heard them. I have. ‘You should hear the language at our house I say.’ There follows a conversation about how the word has enjoyed a renaissance and is no longer deeply offensive to many women. We agree that sometimes, indeed often, no other word will do. Debs is a fellow Burnleyite drawn to The Dirty Old Town. She worked at the old place with me, as did Ricki who is nurse in charge for the day. Burgo comes in and Debs takes the piss out of him – quite right too – he sold his tractor. ‘Yeah, don’t mess with us, we’re from Burnley.’ She says.
Erin showed me her bullet book a few weeks ago and it reminded me so much of me in years gone by. Lists in different colours, planning out the year in impeccable detail. When I was learning anatomy, I did a similar thing, doing detailed drawings and underlining the key learning points in red pen.
As I’ve said so many times before, what’s I find interesting is growing food as part of daily life. This, for me, by some weird twist of fate, happens to be being an A&E consultant. It would be incomplete to write about the beans and bees and not the NHS.
I’ve been shouting about the privatisation of the NHS for yonks – long before the pandemic. Now it’s happened. Right under our noses. I can report that the demand on emergency departments is higher than ever before, and they are truly creaking at the seams.
One day, Tony diplomatically advised me to be careful about writing about the vaccine in my blogs. He said that anti-vaxxers could use some of the stuff I’ve said, and twist it. He’s absolutely right.
I’m weary of conspiracy theory loons and I’m staunchly pro-vaccine. What a miracle of science and public health! I remember the ball-ache of trying to get all my vaccine info from my GP. Proof of vaccination is mandatory for all NHS staff, including Hep B. I never gave it a second thought. Getting a vaccine passport – a credit card-like thing with an electronic chip – was a huge relief. Doctors in training move every 6 or 12 months to different hospitals, so it just made things easier. In my opinion, anyone who denies the benefits of vaccination to humanity is simply a dick. A new malaria vaccine has snuck out un-noticed amidst the pandemic. The disease still kills millions.
Covid is different though. Like the common cold, It’s a Coronavirus. The sneaky fuckers weave and wind – against the tide – the calculated curse is deep inside. Mutating every which way at the drop of a hat. I was genuinely intrigued when I read about the prospect of a vaccine – there’s never been one before for a Corona virus. I was utterly enthralled when I started hearing about a brand new type of vaccine – mRNA! Wow. How exciting. Attenuated chimpanzee adenoviruses are quite new too, so it was all science nerd heaven.
I researched, then I researched some more and I kept researching all the way through. Because I’m from the punk rock underground, and I’m ordinary Burnley, I also listened to the ‘word on the street’ I also have the advantage of working in an Emergency Department.
So here’s what I think, based on my experience to date and intuition – yes, I know I’m repeating myself and I know that intuition counts for nothing in scientific terms – remember that I’m the village idiot and I’ll be relieved to be proved wrong. It’s just my own opinion.
- The C19 vaccines are brand new and unlicensed – emergency authorisation is NOT licensing, and is therefore not subject to the same stringent regulations. There is therefore no long term safety data whatsoever. It is therefore impossible to measure risk vs benefit for them. This must be explained in detail to anyone receiving the vaccine – it is legally required in order to provide the information necessary for informed consent.
- In the uncertainty of future virus mutation and different strains, the second best all round immunity is provided by catching and recovering from C19. The best immunity is provided by an immune system well exposed to many previous viruses and boosted by a correct lifestyle.
- Giving the vaccine to healthy children is a serious crime against humanity. No-one can possibly know how it will affect their developing immune systems. The risk of C19 to them is miniscule.
- The deaths and adverse reactions to the vaccine are under-reported. Even a single death of a young fit healthy person, from a vaccine that they didn’t need, is a travesty. The yellow card MHRA reporting is up to 1511 post-vaccine deaths, but statistically, a significant number people may have died anyway . Yes I know it’s a tiny percentage of the millions vaccinated so far, but that’s not the point.
- The corruption of the consortium of billionaires who are pulling the strings is astonishing. For example, in 2009, Pfizer were fined 2.3 billion dollars for persistently engaging in illegal and corrupt marketing practices, bribing physicians and suppressing adverse trial results. Once you start looking into patents and the common members of some of the big organisations, it’s astonishing.
- There is strong evidence to indicate the increasing emergence of immune escape and antibody dependent enhancement.
- Ivermectin is very effective in treating C19. Its efficacy has been widely censored by the msm.
I could say a lot more about community PCR testing, asymptomatic spread, herd immunity etc. The truth will emerge in time.
I was exposed to high viral loads at the beginning of the pandemic and fortunately I never caught it. I’m very grateful and I accept that I could still get it, and get very sick, indeed people younger and fitter than me have sadly died from C19, but as things stand, nothing would possess me to have one of their experimental jabs. I challenge anyone to provide me with a single shred of evidence that I am at higher risk of transmitting the virus than a vaccinated person. There isn’t any. In fact the converse may be true. This is purely a personal choice tailored to my own circumstances and I think everyone should make their own choice, based on the science and informed consent.
Nevertheless, I don’t accept the right of the state to make the jabs mandatory – it’s nonsense and violates human rights. When the fork in the road appears, which I think will be soon, I’ll go with the flow – I have a farmlet to run and plant medicine to study.
Why were millions of Frenchies on the streets of every major street in France yesterday and how come it’s not in our news? They have a style all of their own when it comes to revolution. Watch out Macron.
Rock & Roll:
Our Friday night boozy music nights continue and lately it’s just our inner core – me and my boys. I’m thrilled that they want to hang out with me. We’re rehearsing in earnest for our forthcoming gigs (The Strange and me) – Sat 21st August, Preston Pop Fest (unfortunately sold out) and Sat 18th of September upstairs at the wonderful Golden Lion in Tod. Dean and Ryan’s band The Opening Scene are playing too and Ticker is DJing. I’ve set the type for the tickets, which will be on sale soon and Elias has done the poster.
There are more gigs coming up too – my friends Natalie and Cain are organising a festival at the wonderful Gallery at Creative Arts bar in Burnley over the weekend of 3rd of Sept, which we’ll both be playing at. We were there last night for Julie and Tom’s birthday. It was nice to get out and dance.
Gaz is still playing bass and Tyler is drumming with us. I’m thrilled that two of the original Notsensibles are still playing together after all these years.
I have great respect for Jake Burns for having kept SLF going all this time. We (Notsensibles) supported them in Manchester a few years ago and I was impressed by their impeccable organisation and the fact that they can still pull huge audiences. I bought the first two singles and the album when they first came out. Clearly business acumen is very important in this kind of thing and unfortunately I don’t have any.
The Gentlemen Gardeners of The North are assembled once again – the Welsh wizard, Monty and I. We’re at Fran and Jude’s, seated outside the yurt in the little wood. It’s magical. There are fairy lights and straw bales. We are bleary-eyed and blubbery and I’m not sure quite what’s got into us, although I suspect it might be something to do with the larger than average volumes of wines and champagne consumed throughout the day.
We’re at Charlie and Daisy’s wedding do and everything is impeccably splendid, which is the hallmark of Judith’s boundless generosity. She took us all to Madrid once for her birthday. The garden is gorgeous and there’s lots of lovely food, a bar and a band.
Taff is waxing lyrical about the nasal Canadian. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to get into him. Taff launches into an impassioned description of a particular album, where Young is wrenched with loss in a drug-fuelled haze. He challenges me not to like it. I am sold. I shall go out and buy it – the only problem is that I’ve forgotten the name of it.
Louise is wearing a stunning orange dress that attracts lots of attention. Ann and I speculate that it’s come from a charity shop for £1.50 but she’s actually paid an astonishing £15 for it from TK Max.
Later, I see Tricia and Liam talking in the yurt. I reach across and squeeze Tricia’s hand. ‘What love?’ She says. ‘Nothing.’ I say. No words are needed. She’s our long-term lovely friend and she and Louise do sweet little art sessions where they paint flowers and stuff. She calls me her ‘bird’ and I call her my bird. We’re both feminists – it’s our joke. She lives in Manchester. I once took her to Carole’s party and raised a few eyebrows when I said, ‘She’s my bird, not my wife.’ It’s her birthday today and she’s coming for her tea and a little art session.
Outside, there’s a hazy-edged full moon. Harvest Moon is one of Judith’s favourite songs – a slow lilting love ballad. It comes on and once again, the Gentlemen Gardener’s are blubbering like soft arses. Get a grip ffs. Burnley boys don’t cry.